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|| f rttrc^ ynit< <»tlnv ui<u in KUKuil^-iiiuK-i 

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revised euition, ly four volumes. 

with a peeliminary essay by 
Rev. W. W. SKEAT, M.A. 

Volume I. 

















tf *^ 



Preliminary Essay by the Rev. W. W. Skeat, M.A. 1 

Memoir of Geoffrey Chaucer 13 

Introduction to the Poems 39 

Poems — The Canterbury Tales: 

The Prologue '. . . 73 

The Knightes Tale . m 

The Prologe of the Myller .... 18-! 

The Milleres Tale 191 

The Prologe of the Reeve 216 

The Reeves Tale 219 

The Cokes Prologe 235 

The Cokes Tale 23(5 

The Cokes Tale of Gamelyn .... 238 

The Man of Eawes Prologe .... 267 

The Man of Lawes Tale 271 

The Prologe of the Wyf of Bathe . . 306 

The Wyf of Bathes Tale 334 

The Prologs of the Frere 349 

The Freres Tale 350 

The Sompnoures Prologe 364 

The Sompnoures Tale 3C5 

The Clkrk of Oxenfordes Prologe . . 386 

The Clerk es Tale 388 

The Prologe of the Marchaundks Tal'e . 422 

The Marchaundes Tale 424 

The Squyeres Prologe 461 

The Squyeres Tale 462 

The Frankeleynes Prologe 486 

The Fbankeleynes Tale ..... 488 

The notes signed S., T., and W., are respectively from Speght's and 
Tyrwlaitt's editions of Chaucer, and Mr. T. Wright's edition of tlie Harleian 
5IS. (7JJ4) of The Canterbury Tales. Those added to this edition are 
included in brackets. 



In preparing a reprint of the edition of Chaucer's 
■works, usually known as Bell's edition, and originally 
included in the series of Bell's annotated editions of 
the English Poets, it seemed advisable to consider 
what improvements could best be made in order to 
add to the convenience and value of the Avork. 1 
have ventured to suggest, in particular, that many 
of the poems might be re-arranged, iso as to show 
more clearly which are the genuine works of the 
poet, and which are the poems that are probably, and 
in most cases decidedly, spurious. The Advertise- 
ment to the former i.-sue contained the following- 
notice : — '• This edition of Chaucer's works includes 
all the poems which appear entitled, from internal or 
external evidence, to be considered genuine ;" but 
it includes, as a fact, a considerable number which 
are now positively known to be spurious. It did not 
seem advisable, however, to omit these, because 
several of them are of considerable interes^t and 
value, and are worth having in an accessible form ; 
besides which, they have so frequently been cited 
as Chaucer's, that their absence would be a practical 
inconvenience. Indeed, a little consideration will 
show that many of them crept into the old editions 
of Chaucer's woiks because they seemed to be woith 
preserving, and because to include them in those 
editions was the easiest way of doing so. To such 
vou I. B 



an extent was this principle carried, that poems were 
even included in the old editions that weie positively 
known, at the time, to be by other authors. Thus 
in the edition of 156 1 , now before me, the title runs — 
' Chaucer's Woorkes, with diuers Addicions, Newlie 
Prynted by Ihon Kyngston, 1561.' Amongst these 
" divers additions," we find, at fol. cccxxx., back, a 
poem entitled ' Ihon Gower, vnto the noble King 
Henry the iiij.' At fol. cccxxxii., back, is ' A saiyng 
of dan Ihon,' i.e., of Dan John Lydgate. At fol. 
cccxxxiv., back, is ' Scogan vnto tlie Lordes and 
Gentilmen of the Kiiiges house,' in which he speaks 
of " my maister Chaucer, God his soule saue ;" and 
in the course of the poem he quotes the three ex- 
cellent stanzas which compose Chaucer's poem of 
' Gentilesso.' At fol. cccxxxvij, is ' A balade of good 
counseile, translated out of Latin verses in-to En- 
gliishe, by dan Ihon lidgat cleped the monke of Buri,' 
But the most remarkable addition is the whole of 
the long poem known as ' Lydgate's Storie of Thebes,' 
in three books. Similar i-emarks apply to other 
editions, and it is well to bear in mind that many of 
them include pieces which not only are not Chaucer's, 
but were never supposed to be so at any time what- 
ever. The practical conclusion to be drawn is, .of 
course, that the occurrence of a poem in an old 
edition of Chaucer is no certain proof that it was 
considered genuine even at the time of its first 
insertion ; and if critics would but understand this, 
it would consideiably clear the way, and render the 
consideration of the genuineness of the various poems 
an easy task. Indeed, when once prejudices and pre- 
conceptions are jiut aside, the task becomes, as I have 
said, an easy one ; and we arrive at the right results 
readily enough, with but small chance of error. It 
is easy to go right in a matter when we have not 
first been taught wrongly ; and I suppose that few 
leaders will find any difficulty in accepting the 


results I shall give below, excepting such as have 
imbibed wrong notions from various text-books, and 
prefer to cling to them instead of looking at the 
questions for themselves. 

By way of convenience, I first give here the brief 
list of the early editions of Chaucer, which I have 
already printed once before, in my edition of Chaucer's 
' Treatise on the Astrolabe,' p. xxvi. 

1. Edition by Win. Tliynne, London, lo32. Folio. 

2. Reprinted, with additional matter, London, 1.542. Folio. 

3. Keprinted, with the matter re-arranged, London, no date, 

about 155L Folio. 

4. Eeprinted, ivifh large additions by John Stowe, London, 

]5()L Folio. 

5. Reprinted, irilh additions and, alterations by Thomas 

Speght, London, 1598. Folio. 

6. Reprinted, with further additions and alterations by Thomas 

Speght, Lon<ion, 1GU2. Folio. 

7. Reprinted, ivith slirjld additions, London, 1687. Folio. 

8. Reprinted, with additions and great alterations in spelling, 

&L\, by Jolni Urry, Loudon, 1721. Folio. 

The above list shows, at a glance, how Chaucer 
has grown, and suggests, at the same time, that the 
simplest way of ascertaining which poems are leally 
Chaucer's is to consider each poem separately (1) by 
the external eviilence other than the fact of its ap- 
pearance in an old edition ; and (2) by the internal 
evidence critically applied ; one qualification for the 
critic being an intimate knowledge of Middle-English 

There is one piece which I shall dispose of at once, 
viz., the long prose piece known as ' The Testament 
of Love,' from which " a tissue of romantic ad- 
venture has been drafted into the life of the poet," 
The fact is, simply, that it is, on the face of it, not 
Chaucer's, and, consequently, that the various par- 
ticulars in his biography, which are founded upon 
it, are really particulaisin the biography of somebody 
else ; if, indeed, they be not purposely fictitious, 


It is easy to see how this piece was inserted into 
Chaucer's works, and we may even be thaukfal to 
the old editors who thus pieserved it for us. It 
was worth printing, and had a certain connection 
with the poet; as thus. Chaucer made a prose 
translation of Boethius on the ' Consolation of Philo- 
sophy,' which has lately been edited anew for the 
Early English Text Society, with great care and 
skill, by Dr. Morris. This piece relates how the 
author (i.e., Boethius in the original) was pining 
in prison, but was consoled by Philosophv. who 
appeared to him in the form of a beautiful and gentle 
woman, and reasoned with him on the dispensations 
of divine providence. Now ' The Testament of 
Love' is a direct imitation of this, probably by one 
of Chaucer's pupils. The author likewise describes 
himself as pining in prison, but as consoled by a 
goodly lady, named Love, who alternately reproves 
and comforts him, exactly as Philosophy reproved 
and comforted Boethius. A good account of the 
general contents of the piece will be found in Prof, 
Morley's 'English Writers/ ii- 268. Prof. Morley 
does, indeed, speak of the work as " Chaucer's," but 
he is reduced, at p. 274, to reject all previous inrer- 
])retations of the " piece of autobiography." But, 
surely, on the face of it, it is an odd thing that a man 
should take to parodying his own work after this 
fashion; and it is, moreover, extremely difficult to 
see how any person can read a certain passage in the 
Testament (unless he has unconquerable preposses- 
sions), without seeing its incompatibility with the 
supposition that Chaucer wrote in such terms about 
himself. In the Third Book, Love talks thus to the 
prisoner ; I modernise the spelling. '* Quoth Love, 
I shall tell thee, this lesson to learn ; mine own true 
servant, the nolle lyliilosophical* poet in English, 

* i.e., the translator of Boethius on the ' Consolation of 


which evermoro hiiu Lnsieth and tiavaileth riglit 
Kore, my name to increase, wht-refore all that will 
[i.e. wish] me good owe [i.e. ought] to do him worship 
and reverence both, trnhj his Letter nor his peer in school 
of my rules could I never Jind: He, quoth she, in a 
treatise that he made of my servant Troilus, hath 
this matter touched, and at the full this question 
assoiled [resolved, explained]. Certainly his noble 
sayings can I not amend: in goodness of gentle 
manly speech, without any manner of nicety of 
' starieres ' (sir) imagination, in wit and in good 
reason of sentence, he passeth all other mahers,'" &c. 
This is plain English ; the author says that, not 
heing able to write on a certain topic as well as 
Chaucer, who is the greatest of all poets, he thinks 
he had better let that matter alone. 

The really interesting point is to observe that the 
author seems to speak of Chaucer as if he were still 
living, a considciati<in which helps us to date the 
composition at a little before a.d. 1400, a conclusion 
which exactly agrees with the internal evidence. 
If we were asked to believe that it was written by 
Occleve, there would be nothing much to urge against 
such a theory ; but to attribute it to Chaucer him- 
self is manii'estly preposterous. I can only suppose 
that the wording of the above quotation has not 
been previously sufficiently considered. We are 
thus clear of ' The Testament of Love,' and of all the 
difficulties in which its snp[iosed references to 
Chaucer's own life and circumstances would in- 
volve us. 

Passing on to the consideration of other pieces, we 
have really quite sufficient, and indeed almost 
superfluous evidence as to most of them. "We find 
at the outset that such poems as ' The Canterbury 
Tales,' ' Troilus and Criseyde,' ' The House of Fame,' 
'The Death of Blanche the Duehesse,' 'The Parlia- 
ment of Foulcs,' and 'The Legend of Good Women,' 


are all acknowledged by himself; and the internal 
evidence not only at once confirms their genuineness, 
but affords us plentiful information as to style, 
dialect, grammar, prosody, and rimes, such as may 
help us to judge the more confidently as to his other 
supposed works. He also clearl}' acknowledges the 
two prose treatises, viz. : the translation of Boethius, 
and the treatise on the Astrolabe ; and, when we 
have included these, we alread}' feel sure as to all 
his principal productions. To these we may add 
such as are attributed to liim on good MS. authority, 
and as to which there has never been any doubt, 
viz. : the poem called Chaucer's ' A.B.C.,' attributed 
to him in some verses extant in MS. Cotton, 
Yitellius, C. xiii., leaf 255 ; the ' Complaint to Pite,' 
" made by Geffrey Chancier the aui-eat poete," as is 
said at the head of the copy in MS. Harl. 78, leaf 
HO; 'The Complaint of Mars,' "made by Geffrey 
(.'haucier at the comandement of the i-enomed and 
excellent Prynce my lord the due John of Lancastre," 
as said in MS. Trin. Coll. Camb. E. 3, 20, p. 130; 
' The Complaint of Venus,' which belongs to the 
foregoing, though written at a later period; the 
poem called ' Anelida and Arcite,' written by the 
author of ' The Knight's Tale,' but at an early 
period, and subsequentl}' made use of to furnish 
some lines both in that tale and in 'The Squire's 
Tale ; ' and a few other minor poems, as to which 
there has never been any doubt. The following is 
a complete list of Chaucer's works, in an (approxi- 
matel}') chronological order, which I have mainly 
taken from Mr. FiirnivaU's 'Trial Forewords,' pub- 
lished for the Chaucer Society in 1871. 

Chaucer's ' A.B.C.,' or ' La Priere de Nosfro Dame.' 

' Comi)leyiite to Pite ; ' soiautimes called ' The Compleynte of 

the Deth of Pite.' 
♦Deth of Biaunche;' otherwise called 'Tiie Booke of the 

Duchesse ; ' written a.d. 1369. 


('Lyf of Scinte Cooile;' aftcrwarils iiisortefl into tlie ' Can- 

terlmry Tali's,' ;i.s 'The Stcoiiil Nun's Talc') 
•The rarlciiicnl ut' Foulfs,' or • The Assembly oi" Foules.' 
' Tlio Cniniilaint of Mars.' 
' Anchda and Arcite.' 
'Boethius de Consolatione Phih)S0phi8e; ' a translation in 


'The Former Apjo, or '^Etas Prima;' jirintrd at p. ISO of 
Dr. Morris's edition of the tran.slation of IJoetiiius. It is a 
poetii'al wrsion i'rom Boitliins. entitled ' Gliaucer vpou this 
fyfte mctur of the seeond book.' 

•Troilus and Criseyde.' 

' Chaueer's words to his scrivener Adam.' 

'The House of Faine ; ' about a.d. 1384. 

• The Legend of Good Women ; ' the earliest work in the 

metre known as tlu; '• heroic couplet." 
'The Cai.terbury Tales ;' about a.d. 1;!86. 

• Good Counseil of Chaucer ; ' or ' Truth,' or ' Flo from the 

Pres ; ' said to have been his last work, and, if so, to be put 

lower down. 
' Moder of God, and Virgin Undefouled.' 
' Two Proverbes' (eight linos only, with sixteen spurious and 

unconntcted lines somotiuics ajipended). 
'A Treatise on the Astrolabe;' A.v. 1391 ; in prose. 
' The Complaint of Venus.' 
'Lenvoy to iScdgan.' 
' Lenvoy to Bukton.' 

• Gentilesse : ' a poem quoted in full by Scogan. 

' Lacke of Stedfa>tnesse ;' or, 'A Ballad sent to King Richard ;' 

al)out A.D. 1I>'J7. 
'Ballade do Visage saunz Peinture;' also, incorrectly, called 

'A Ballade of the Village (sic without Painting.' 
'Compleint to his Purse;' a.d. 1399, 

Besides the above, we know of at least four works 
that are now h)st. These are (1) 'Origenes upon 
the Magdalene,' mentioned in the prologue to 'The 
Legend of Good Women,' for which a poein by 
another author, entitled a ' Lamentation of i\Iary 
Magdalen,' was substituted in the old editions, owing 
to a certain similarity in the title : (2) 'Tlie Bonk of 
the Lion,' mentioned near the end of ' The Parson's 
Tale ; ' (3) a translation of Pope Innocent's treatise, 
' De Miseria Conditionis Humana? ;' this is mentioned 


in the Cambridge MS. of 'The Legend of Goocl 
'Women,' which contains a passage somewhat dif- 
ferent from the printed copies ; and (4) a translation 
of ' The Romaunt of the Rose ; ' on which see some 
further remarks below. 

The above works are all undoubtedly and admit- 
tedly Chaucer's; and it is to be remembered that 
the evidence in their favour is double, viz. external 
and internal. For other works (which is the strong 
part of the case) the supposed evidence breaks 
down doubly; for whilst the internal evidence 
against them is weighty, the external evidence 
in their favour fails at the same time. It is this 
circumstance which renders it so easy to draw up a 
correct list. 

Of the remaining poems which have been admitted 
into most editions, and are to be found in the present 
one, the most remarkable and valuable is ' The 
Romaunt of the Rose.' Chaucer tells us himself 
that he translated the French poem so called ; and 
there is extant, in a MS. at Glasgow, a considerable 
fiagment of a translation which was made in the four- 
teenth century, and which I believe can be shown to 
have been originally comi)o.sed in a dialect ]nuch more 
northern than that of London. The early editors, 
coming across this translation, naturally enough 
concluded that it was Chaucer's, but there is, in fact, 
nothing to connect it with him externally. It is 
not marked as his in the ]\LS. ; and a considerable 
portion of it is deficient, so that it does not contain, 
e.g., tho passage which Chaucer copies in his 
' Uoc-toures Tale' (see Tyrwhitt's note to Cant. Ta. 
12,074), nor yet that which he copies in his story of 
Kero in the ' Menkes Tale.' And when it comes to 
be examined carefully, it presents, to those who have 
eyes to see, and who are sufficiently acquainted with 
Middle-English to apprehend, such clear and con- 
sistent evidences of an original northern origin, as to 


settle the qnestinn beyond all doubt.* To whicb 
may bo added that it transgiesses, over and over 
again, the laws of Chaucer's prosody as obtained from 
his genuine works, and contains several rimes such 
as he never employs.f In a word, the particular 
translation of the liomaunt which we now possess, 
and which we must value because it is all we have, 
is hi/ another hand. 

' The Complaynt of the Black Knight,' or ' Com- 
jjlaynt of a Loveres Life' is now known, on MS. 
autiiority, to be Lydgate's; and the critic who 
knows Lj^dgate's style will not dispute this. The 
leferences in it to Chaucer's ' Legend of Good Women,' 
and to ' Arcite and Palemoun ' are not without their 
special interest. 

' The Cuckow and Nightingale ' was no doubt 
inserted amongst Chaucer's works because the first 
two lines coincide with two lines in ' The Knight's 
Tale.' There is nothing else to connect the poem 
with Chaucer, and the evidence fiom the rimes is 
against it. It comes, however, much nearer to 
Chaucer's style than most of the spurious poems. 

• The Flower and the Leaf purports to have been 
written by a woman, and no doubt was so; the 
language is so clearly tliat of the fifteenth century 
(and not very early in the century either), that it is 
impossible to connect it with Chaucer, It contradicts 
the laws of prosody, and of rime, as deduced from 
his genuine works. The riming of " pleasure " with 
'• desire " in stanza seventeen, is enough to make the 
most credulous person pause and reflect. Still it is, 
on its own merits, a pretty poem enough. 

The poem entitled * Chaucer's Dream ' is absent 

* I have made, lor my own use, a considerable list of rimes in 
the Romaunt which agree, not with those in Chaucer, but with 
those in Barbour's Bruce! 

t I give one example. Tliorc (there) is rimed with more. 
Chaucer writes ther, more, which cannot rime. Barbour writes 
thar, mar, a perfect rime. See R. R., 1853. 


from the four earliest editions. It was first printed 
in 15(18, so that there is, of course, no authority for 
connecting it with Chaucer beyond the title ; and 
the title merely means, if rightly understood, that it 
is an attempt (and an unsuccessful one) to imitate 
Chaucer's style and language. The author says that 
it is " in evil English," and calls himself " a sleepy 
writer;" but it is, on its own merits, not so "evil 
written " after all. One curious characteristic is the 
astounding length of the sentences. There is no full 
stop in some editions, before the end of the seventieth 
line ; and the reader who is curious in this matter 
may find plenty of similar examples. It is needless 
to say that it is not Chaucer's, l3ut an imitation of 
hira. The final e, so common in Chaucer, is here 
very rare, and the language is that of the fifteenth, 
not of the fourteenth century. 

Of all the pieces attributed to Chaucer, none are 
so utterly unlike him as ' The Court of Love.' The 
language can scarcely be said to belong even to the 
fifteenth century, but belongs rather to the reign of 
Henry the VIII., or even later. It is known, too, 
how it came to be inserted into the much containing 
and singularly comprehensive volume which bears 
the title above-mentioned, viz., ' Chaucer's Woorkes, 
with diuers Addicions.' It first appeared in the 
edition of 1561, when John Stowe, who was casting 
about for what he' might include in his edition, 
came across a copy of it, which now happens to be 
bcnind up with a copy of ' The Legend of Good 
\Vomen,' and may have been similarly bound up in 
his days ; whereupon he straightway inserted it. 
Fortunately, the very MS. in question is still pre- 
served in Trinity College, Cambridge (marked E. 3, 
19), and wo can tell for ourselves, by inspection, that 
it is unconnected with the Chaucer poems, and not 
to be dated at all earlier, but rather considerably 
later than a.D. 1500, which is also the date with 

ESSAY. 1 1 

which the language of the poem is found to cor- 

In fact, he was misled, and we can tell how ; so that 
the matter is scarce v\orth further discussion. There 
is not, and never was, more reason for inserting it 
among Chaucer's poems, than there is reason for 
inserting Ireland's Vortigern among Shakespeare's 
plays ; yet it is somewhat strange that this poem 
has l)een clung to hy some readers and writers with 
great tenacity, chiefly because it contains the not 
very valuable allusion wherein the author declares 
that, at eighteen years of age he was a young man, 
and in another passage says his name was " I'iiilo- 
genet." and that he was " of Cambridge clerk ; " from 
which it seems to have been assumed that he miist 
be identified with Chaucer, because the latter speaks 
of Trumpington, not far from the same famous town. 
It seems to have escaped observation that there have 
been, at various times, a good many " clerks " at 
" Cambridge." The internal evidence against the 
poem, which hardly contains one clear example of 
the use of the final e which so abounds in Chaucer, 
is simply overwhelming. 

The piece called the ' Virelai ' contains no final e. 
It belongs to the fifteenth century. It was inserted 
merely because Chaucer said that he once wrote 
' virelaies ;' (see ' Legend of Good Women,' vol. iii. 
p. 3;^»3 ; also Franklin's tale, p. 495, helmv). 

The few other poems, such as 'A Goodly Ballad,' 
' A Praise of Women,' ' Prosperity,' ' Leaulte vaut 
Eichesse,' ' Three Eoundels,' and Chaucer's ' Pro- 
phecy,' are of small importance. 

In the prescTit edition, an attempt has been made 
to bring all the spurious or doubtful poems together 
into one volume. They proved, however, to be more 
than sufficient to fill the fourth volume, so tliat one 
of them, viz., ' Chaucer's Dream,' has found its way 
to the end of the third volume. There is not much 


fear of its being mistaken for Chaucer's,* so that the 
line has thus been drawn with sufficient sharpness. 
The advantage of separating the true fiom the 
spurious poems is so obvious, that I hope the reader 
will be pleased with the result. 

In a few places where newer information has sug- 
gested emendations in the notes to the former edition 
(which were wiitten by Mr. Jephson), such slight 
corrections as were feasible have been made. All 
for which I am responsible are marked with my 
initials. In the main, with the exception of the re- 
arrangement, and some necessar}^ corrections in ' The 
Life of Chaucer ' in vol. i., tlie edition remains the 
same as when completed by Mr. Jephson, under the 
supervision of Mr. Eobert Bell. 

* Mr. Fiirnivall speaks of " ' Chaucer's Dreme,' which one cmtld 
swear, after reading it, was not Chaucer's : the thing is impossible ;" 
'Trial Forewords,' ji. 6, 


1328 — 1400. 

Remembering how little is known of Shakespeare and his 
contemporaries, we cannot be surprised at the scantiness ot 
the information we possess concerning Chaucer, who flou- 
rished two hundred years before the Elizabethan period. 
When we consider, indeed, the remoteness of his age, and the 
long interval of darkness that followed, it becomes rather 
matter for surprise that we should possess so much. This 
information is derived from two sources : authentic documents, 
and certain passages in Chaucer's writings, supposed to con- 
tain allusions to his own life.' The materials collected from 
the latter source are, of course, purely conjectural. Some of 
Chaucer's biographers accept them without hesitation — others 
exclude them altogether.^ In the following outline, the infe- 

' The^ allusions occur in The I'oiirt of Low, and Vie. Testament of Love 
[whicU are however no longer regarded as Chaucer's. — \V. W. S.]. 

■■i The principal biographers of Chaucer are — i. Lcland. a. Speght, 
1593. 3. Urry, 1731. This biography was not written by Urry, 
having been prefixed to tlie folio after liis death ; but liis name is used 
in referring to it, to identify the edition. 4. Tyrwliitt, 1775-8. 
5. Godwin, i8o3. 6. Sir N. II. Kicolas, 184S. Of these, the Urst three 
are, upon the whole, the least reliable for facts. Leland, who lived 
nearest to Chaucer's time, and whose commission of investigation in 
the archives of the religious houses opened up much general informa- 
tion, abounds in mistakes. Speght deals largely in statements un- 
sustained by proofs. Urry, who exhibits pains in the structure of his 
narrative, blends the speculative and the true in such a way as to 
render his labours comparatively valueless. Tyrwliitt was the lirst 
who reduced the biography to the few historical items tliat were 
capable of documentary veriiication rejecting all the rest. Godwin 
added several new particulars ; but his voluminous work is so 
overlaid with conjectural matter that it cannot be eon.sulted with 
aafety, except for its criticisms, which exhibit taste and dlscriminatiou- 


rences that have been drawn from the works of Chaucer are 
carefully distinguished from the facts that are supported by 
historical evidence ; and the grounds are stated which either 
sntitle them to notice, or justify their rejection. 

The birth, birth-place, parentage, and education of Geoifrey 
Chaucer are involved in obscurity. According to a tradition, 
which cannot now be traced to its origin, he was born in 
1328. Leland, his first biographer, speaks of him throughout 
as if he were born much later ; which would seem to be con- 
fii-med by a deposition made by Chaucer himself in 1386, 
when he was cited as a witness in a cause of chivalry between 
Lord Scrope and Sir Richard Gi'osvenor. In this document, 
Chaucer avers that he was then of the age of ' 40 and 
upwards,' which would fix his birth about 1343 or 1344; 
but as the depositions of the other witnesses on the same 
occasion are extremely lax and inaccurate respecting their 
ages, the averment can be considered only as a matter of 
form, not intended to convey any more definite term than 
that the witness was, more or less, upwards of forty. Sir 
Harris Kicolas shows that the deposition is not to be relied 
upon, in consequence of the remarkable mistakes made in the 
ages of other deponents, ' some of whom are stated to have been 
ten, and others even twenty years younger than they really 
were.' We know by the inscription on Chaucer's tomb, 
erected in 1556 by Nicholas Brigham, a poet and man of 
erudition, that he died in 1400 ; and, as we learn incidentally 
from his own writings, and those of Gower and Occleve,' 

The biography by Sir N. Harris Nicolas is the most complete and 
authentic. Sir Harris strictly confines liis narrative to facts extracted 
from the public records, many of which hail escaped his predecessors, 
and points out clciirly tlie erroneous inferences and suppositious that 
had been <lrawn from Chaucer's writings. 

' That Cliaucer liad attained a considerable age at the time of his 
death is placed beyond doubt by decisive testimonies. Gower, in 
1392-3. speaks of him as being 'now in his dayes old;' Occleve, 
lamenting liis death, apostrophises him — 'O maister deere and fadir 
reverent ;' teims, says Sir Harris Nicolas, ' long used to indicate 
respect for age, and for superiority in any pursuit or science ;' Chaucer 
alludes to himself as being ' olde and unlusty :' and Leland says that 


that ho lived to an advanced aj;!;c, there is some probability, if 
no exact authority in favour of the earlier date.* 

A passage iu The Testament of Love is su2:)poscd to deter- 
mine tlie city of London as his birth-place, and would be 
conclusive of the fact if other particulars, drawn from the 
same source and proved to be erroneous, had not thrown 
suspicion upon the authority.^ Of his family almost nothing 

he ' lived to the period of j;rey hairs, and at length found old age liis 
greatest disease.' The well-lvnowu iMjrtrait, painted by Occleve from 
memory (llarl. MS. 4866), agrees witli tliese de-criptions, and represents 
Chaucer with grey liair and beard, and feature-: bearing evident traces of 
old age. In another portrait, lound in an early, if not contemporary, copy 
of Occleve's poems in the Koyal MS. 17, D. vi.. he also appears very old, 
holding, as in ( )ccleve'9 portrait, a string of beads in his left hand. 

' 'Tlie birth of Chaucer in 1528,' observes Tyrwhitt, 'has been settled, 
1 suiipose, from some inscription on his tombstone, signifying that he died 
in 1400, at the age of 72.' Tliis 'supposition ' has been adopted as a matter 
of fact by Mr. Singer and others ; but tliere is no evidence whatever iu 
support of it. No record of such an inscription has been discovered. 
The date of ij28 first stated in print by Speglit, but upon what 
grounds does not appear. In the deposition made by Chaucer iu ij86, 
he says that he had then borne arms for twenty-seven years. This 
l)laces the commencement of liis military career in tlie year IJ59, when, 
a.ssnming him to have been born in i j28, he w:us thirty-one years of age. 
As mo-t men uho bore arms entered the profession at a much earlier age, 
the fact tends to discredit the date of his birth assigned by Speght, although 
the inference c;innot Lie considered conclusive. On the other hand, the age 
indicated by the deixjsltion is it-elf clL^credited by several circumstances. 
If, a« is generally assumed, Chaucer produced his Parliament 0/ Birds iu 
IJ58, we nmst believe, according to the deposition, that he vvTote them 
when he was not more than fourteen or fifteen. [Or rather seventeen or 
eiiihteen : Chaucer's statement that he was of the age of forty and upwards 
in i}86 is good evidence that he was born about 1540. The tradition that 
he was born in ij28 has no authenticity, aud does not agree with the 
known facts.— W. W. S.] 

2 rke Testament 0/ l.ove is an allegory written in prose, the heroine of 
which is a lady nametl Marguerite, who, notwithstanding that the author 
typifies her as a jiearl, and gives us to understand also tliat the name is 
intended to represent grace, virtue, wisdom, and lioly church, is neverthe- 
less addressed throughout as a woman, to whom the writer offers up his 
lioniage with a vivacity that cannot be mistaken for tlie expression of a 
merely spiritual sentiment. The ingenuity that extracted from this mystical 
comjx)sition a clue to a series of incidents which tlie most careful examina- 
tion will fail to detect in what the author himself calls the 'wimples folds' of the allegory, is, perhaps, without a parallel. The real 
signilication veiled under all this elalwrate devotion— if it have any other 
signification than that wiiich the title of the piece very plainly conveys — 
may be difficult, if not impossible, at this distance of time, to determine; 


is known ; and it would be idle to repeat the speculations 
that have been raised upon several persons of his name' who 
lived in the early part of the fourteenth century. Leland 
asserts that he was of noble family ; Speght thinks that he 
was the son of a certain vintner who lived at the corner of 
Kirton-lane, and left all his property to the church ; Pitt 
says that he was the son of a knight ; Hearne, that he was a 
merchant; and Urry conjectures that he was the son of one 
John Chaucer, who attended Edward III. to Flanders and 
Cologne. It is certain that he received the education of a 
gentleman; and it is no less certain that his family were 
neither noble nor distinguished, although there is suificient 
reason to conclude that they were wealthy and respectable. 

It has been inferred from an allusion in The Canterhury 
Tales that he was educated at Cambridge. Leland says he 
was of Oxford, and that he finished his studies at Paris.''' 
Other biographers reconcile these statements by supposing 

but there can be no doubt tliat, whatever it means, it does not mean a 
confession of circumstantial persoual details, and tliat ttie most conclu-^ive 
evidence against tlie inferences drawn from 'lite Testament of Love is fur- 
nislied by The Testament of Low itself. [This treatise is not Chaucer's, but 
written by an admirer (probably a pupil) of his. The pa.«sage in wliich he 
is so highly praised seems to imply that he was still alive.— W. W. S.] 

1 Urry says that the name (variously giveu as Cliaucier, Chaucieris, 
Chaussier, Chausir, &c.) is originally French, and signifies a shoemaker. 
Tyrwhitt says that it rather means un faiseur de cliausses ou culottiers, 
and that, according to the old spelling, Chaucessir, it might be derived 
from Chavfecire, an office which still exists under the title of chafewax. 
[It is now known that his father John Chaucer was a vintner in Thames 
Street; that his mother's name was Agnes ; that his grandfather's was 
Richard, and his grandmother's Maria. This JIaria was twice married, 
her tirst husband being named TIeroun or Heyroun, whose will is dated 
April 7, i!49, his executor being his half-brother John Chaucer, the poet's 
father.— W.W. .S.l 

2 Tyrwhitt is hardly just to Leland in saying that he assigns Chaucer's 
education to Oxford 'without a shadow of proof.' lie may have had 
grounds for the supposition, and probably had, although he did not stiite 
them. Godwin discovers, in the dotlicjition of Troilus and Crcseide to Gower 
and Strode, both supposed to have been educated at Oxford, a reason for 
believing that Chaucer became acquaintwl witli them there, the poem 
being one of his juvenile works. If L(>land is to be credited, however, he 
made (Jower's aciiuaintance, not at Oxford, but in the Inns of Court. 
Iceland's story of Chaucer's travels into France to complete his education 
is entirely rejected by Tyrwhitt. 


that Chaucer was of both universities ; but Sir Harris 
Nicolas observes that ' there is no proof, however likely it 
may be, that he belonged to either.' 

Under whatever auspices, or in whatever place, Chancer 
studied, the extent of his acquirements is abundantly testified 
by his works and the evidence of his contemporaries. He was 
well acquainted with divinity and philosophy and the scho- 
lastic learning of his age, and displays in numerous passages an 
intimate knowledge of astronomy and of most of the sciences 
as far as they were then known or cultivated. He is said to 
have originally selected the law as his profession, and to have 
been a member of the Inner Temple, where upon one occasion 
he was fined two shillings for beating a Franciscan friar in 
Fleet-street.^ The statement, however, should be received 
with caution, as there is reason to believe that lawyers were 
not admitted to the Temple till long after Chaucer had 
devoted himself to other employments.^ 

Although it is impossible to trace the chronology of 
Chaucer's poems with any approach to certainty, there can- 
not be much hesitation in assuming the Troilus and Cresekle 
to have been among his earliest productions. It is placed 
first in the enumeration of his works by Lydgate, who ex- 
pressly assigns it to his youth ; a statement better entitled 
to credit than the announcement by the same authority that 
it was translated from ' a booke which is called Trophcy or 

• This anecdote is related by Speght on the authority of Mr. Buckley, 
who, he says, had seen the rocord of it in the Inner Temple. Leland 
corroborates the fact of Chaucer having studied in 'the colleges of llie 
law)'ers,' but, as usual, with a singular contusion of dates, assigning the 
period to the latter end of the reign of Richard II., when Chaucer w;is not 
only an old man, but otherwise provided for, and extre.i:ely unlikely to 
begin the study of the law. 

- 'I'hynne. who coniijiled the first complete edition of Chaucer's works, 
says that 'the lawyers were not of the Temple till the latter parte ot the 
reygne of Edward III., at wliich time Chaucer was a grave manne. liolden 
in greate credyt, and employed in embas.sye.' \Vlieii Kd ward III. died, 
Chaucer was forty-nine years of ago. assuming that he was born in i}23. 
Mr. Singer observes that if it could be proved that Chaucer w;ts a nieiiilxT 
of the Inner Temple, "it would be sufficient evidiMice of his birth and 
fortune, for only young men of noUle aud opulent families could support 
the expense uf tUis luu.' 

VOL. I. C 


than Chaucer's own singular declaration that his original 
was a Latin author ' called LoUius,' No such book or author 
has ever been discovered to have existed ; and the substance 
of the poem, which Chaucer amplified and altered, is to be 
found in the Fllostrato of Boccaccio.^ 

The date of Tlie Assembly of Fowls, or, as it is elsewhere 
called. The Parliament of Birds, may be referred to the year 
1358, upon the supposition, which appears to be generally 
admitted, that it was composed with reference to the 
intended marriage between John of Gaunt and Blanche of 
Lancaster, which took place in 1359, and which the lady is 
represented in the j^oem as deferring for a twelvemonth.* 
From this circumstance also we gather the not unimportant 
fact that at this time Chaucer was on terms of intimacy with 
John of Graunt. The poem called Chaucer's Dreant, was 
formerly supposed to have been written un the occasion of 
the nuptials.^ 

The first authentic notice of Chaucer occurs in 1359, when 
it appears, upon his own authority, that he served under 

1 TjTwhitt conlesses himself unable to explain ' how Boccaccio should 
have acquired the name of LoUius, and the FUostrato the title of Tmphe;' 
but Godwin sees no difficulty in the case, and thinks it ' absurd to dispute 
the existence' of Lollius, of whom lie avowedly knows nothing himselt. 

[After all, the simplest solution of these riddles is to cut the knot by tlie 
supposition that they liave no real answer. Like all other JlicUUe-Englisli 
writere, Chaucer adduces his authorities in the vaguest manner, merely 
citing the names of authors who were supposed to have written on t ,e 
subject. Tlie statement of Lydgate is borrowed from the words '.«eith 
Troi)liee' in Chaucer's jMoukcs Tale, Hercules, st. j (see vol. ii. p. 191). 
01 this apocryphal author notliing is known beyond the remark 'ille 
vates Chaldeorum Tropheus,' in the margin of the EUesmere 31;?. ; and he 
probably never existed. As to Lollius, tJie right solution is doubtless tliat 
of Dr. Latham, viz. that a misconception of the sense of Horace's line — 
'Trojaui belli scriptorem, miixhue LoUi' (^lipist. i. 2. i) — led to tlie iiutiou 
tliat Lollius was a writer on the Trojan war ! And the mere notion was 
quite enough to cause him to be cited accordingly.— W. W. S.] 

- Tlie lemale eagle wooed by the three ' tercels' is made to ask for a 
year's respite. See the i)oein, vol. ii. p. ^6$ : 

' . . . unto tliis yere be done 
I aske respite for 10 avisen mee; 
Aud after that to have my choice al free.' 

- [It is certain that tlie poem called The nrcam is not Chaucer's, but is of 
later date. The mistake arose from confusion with iha bvok 0/ the 
Duchiiss. See vol. iii. p. 437, el scj.— W. W. S.j 


Edward III. in the expedition against France, upon which 
occasion he was made prisoner. At this period he is described 
as being ' of a fair and beautiful complexion, his lips full and 
red, his size of a just medium, and his port and air graceful 
and majestic.'' It is curious that in this year, 1359, wlien 
Chaucer was a prisoner in France, Godwin confident I3' assumes 
that he was residing at Woodstock; and cites, in support of 
this opinion, some descriptive passages wliich, he thinhs, 
' sufficiently answer to the geograpliy of Woodstoclc-park.' 
Whether Chaucer ever resided at Woodstock, as most of his 
biographers assert, cannot be determined, for there is no proof 
of the fact; but it is evident that he could not have resided 
there in 1359." 

' This description is given by Urry from a portrait of Chaucer, 
painted at the age of tliirty, and then (I'^O in tlie possession of 
George Greenwood, of Cliasluton, in Gloucestersliire, Esq. Tlie por- 
trait is also mentioned by Giainger. Sir Man-is Nicolas has collected 
an account of all the known authentic portraits. That, by Occleve, 
already alluded to, is the best yet disco\ered. It represents Chaucer 
with his grey beard bi-foiked, in a dark-coloured dress and hood, a 
black case, containing a knife or pen-case, in Ids vest, his right hand 
extended, and a string of beads in his left. The portrait, also previ- 
ously mentioned, in Occleve's poems, is a full-length, in bl.ick vest, 
hood, stockings, and pointed boots. A third portrait, in The Canttr- 
bury Tales, Lansd. MS. 85 1, dating within twenty years of the 
poet's deatli, is a small full-length inserted in the initial letter of th'^ 
volume, in a long grey gown, red stockings, and black shoes fastened 
with sandals. Here the head is bare, and the hair closely cut. Sir 
Harris >'icolas refers to other portraits; but these appear to be the 
most authentic. 

* Endless discussions migJit be raised on such passages as Godwin 
cites, leaving the question in the end exactly where it was in the 
beginning. iMore consideration is due to the authentic statement that a 
house, still denominated in deeds and legal instruments as ' Chaucer's 
house,' adjoins the iirincipal entrance of Woodstock-park. But even 
the speculation which this fact would seem to warrant is set aside by 
Sir Harris Nicolas, who obseives this house ' was more probably 
the house of Thomas Chaucer, to whom the JIanor of Woodstock was 
granted by Henry the Fourth, ten years after the poet's death." Tlu.'t 
is the earliest evidence extant of any connection of the name of 
Chaucer with Woodstock. It is possible, no doubt, that the poet at 
some time resided at Woodstock, and that, conseiiuently, it might 
have been selected as a gii't to the son; but this kind of inference, 
whatever show of probability it may carry, cannot be allowed to 
possess any historical weight. Speght tells us that the square stone 
house near the park gate ;allcd Chaucer's house, was passed under 

c 2 


At what time Chaucer returned to England has not been 
ascertained. It is probable that he was ransomed on the 
conclusion of the peace of Chartres in 1360, as there is 
ground for supposing that his marriage took place in that 
year.' Amongst the persons brought over to England in her 
retinue by Queen Philippa in 1328 was Sir Payne Eoet, a 
native of Hainault, and Guienne King of Arms. This 
gentleman had two daughters : Katherine, who entered the 
service of the Duchess Blanche, the first consort of John of 
Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster; and a younger daughter, Phi- 
lippa,- who was taken into the royal household as one of the 
maids of honour. To this lady (who has been confounded by 
some writers with Philippa PIcard, also one of the maids of 
honour) Chaucer was married; an alliance that subsequently 
brought him Into the most intimate relations with John of 
Gaunt. In September, 1366, the Queen granted an annual 
pension of ten marks to Philippa Chaucer, which was con- 
tinued to her by the King after her Majesty's death in 
1369; when, being no longer in the royal household, she 
became attached to the person of the Duchess Constance, 
the second consort of John of Gaunt. In the Interval her 
sister Katherine, having married Sir Hugh Swynford, a Lin- 
colnshire knight, and become a widow, had returned to the 
Duke's service in the capacity of governess to the children of 
his former Duchess. While she was in this situation, 
Katherine Swynford is supposed to have yielded to the soli- 

that name by Queen Elizabeth to the tenant who then held it; and we 
learn Irom Urry that in his time there was a printed copy of Chaucer'!) 
works, with a Latin inscription on the first page, chained in tlie 

' Tliis is the date given by Tyrwliitt, but without reference to any 
authority. Sir Harris Nicolas shows that the marriage must have 
taken place at least before September, i 366. 

- Tlie name of Philippa was at that time much used in Hainault, ' in 
regard," as one of the old biographers says, ' of its being tlie Queen's 
name.' Sir Harris Nicolas thinks it not unlikely that this lady's bap- 
tismal name was given to her from being the Queen's god-daiighter. He 
hpeaks of her as being older than her sister Katherine. The earlj 
biographers, with greater probability, describe her as being younger. 


citations of the Duke, wlio first made her his mistress, and 
afterwards maiTied lier. The Duke's regard I'or Chaucer and 
his wife was evinced by substantial gifts. In 1372, he con- 
ferred upon Pliilippa Chaucer a pension of lol. per annum; 
and on dilferent occasions presented her with valuable pre- 
sents, besides bestowing other marks of his favour and 
protection on her husband and cliildren. 

In 1367, Chaucer was made one of the valets of the King's 
chamber; and in the same year the King granted him an 
annual salary of twenty marks for life, till he should be other- 
wise provided for, under the designation of ' dilectus Valettus 
noster,' which Selden says 'was conferred on young heirs 
designed to be knighted, or young gentlemen of great descent 
or quality.'' Chaucer appears to have been absent from Eng- 
land, on the King's service, in the summer of 1370 ; and 
towards the end of 1372 he was joined in a commission with 
two citizens of Genoa, for the purpose of determining upon 
an English port where a Genoese commercial establishment 
might be formed. An advance of 661. 13*. 4d. having been 
made to him on the ist of December, on account of his 
expenses, he is supposed to have left England immediately 
after ; and all that is actually kno\\m of his mission, observes 
Sir Harris Nicolas, di'awing his information from the entries 
in the Issue Rolls, is that he visited Florence and Genoa, and 
that he certainly returned to England before the 22nd No- 
vember, 1373, on which day he received his pension in 

It was during his visit to Italy on this occasion that 
Chaucer is said to have visited Petrarch at Padua, a suppo- 
sition derived from a passage in tlie Prologue to the Clerk 
of Oxenford's Tale, in which the narrator says that he 

1 There is much confusion in tlie early biographies in this matter. 
ITrry says that Cliancer was soon alter made Gentleman of tlie King's 
Privy Chamber, that an adclilional pension of twenty marks waa 
bestowed U|iun liini, and tliat lie was siibsecjuenlly apjjointed Shield- 
bearer to the l\in^. The whole of these statements appear to have 
originated in the grant and appointment above-mentioned, whicti 
aloue is sustained by evidence. 


'learned' the tale of Griselda from a 'worthy clerk' at 
Padua, ' Fraunceis Petrark, the laureat poete.' If Chaucer 
had made this statement in his own person, which, un- 
doubtedly, the structure oiTJie Canierhiiry Tales afforded him 
the opportunity of doing, there could he no grounds for any 
discussion as to its truth ; but having made it through the 
medium of a fictitious character, and not in his own person, the 
fact of such an interview having ever taken place has been 
called mto question. Whether the reasoning founded upon 
the manner in which Chaucer thought fit to co*imunicate 
the tale is sufficiently satisfactory to discredit the source to 
which he refers it, every reader must he considered competent 
to decide for himself. Upon this point, however, it may be 
M'cll to observe that a distinction should be drawn between 
that which is given as fiction and that wdiich is stated as 
reality; and that when Chaucer alludes to a real pei'son in 
the introduction to the story, he so far departs from the dra- 
matic assumption maintained in the rest of the prologue. As it 
is clear that the Clerk of Oxenford, being purely an imaginary 
personage, could not have learned the story at Padua from 
Petrarch, the difficulty becomes narrowed to a choice of two 
very obvious alternatives: — we must believe either that the 
whole statement is an invention, for which no intelligible 
reason can be assigned, and which is, certainly, on the face of 
it improbable ; or that Chaucer himself obtained the story 
from Petrarch. 

Several chcumstances tend to strengthen this latter con- 
clusion, which acquhes additional force from the absence of a 
single particle of evidence against it. Petrarch was at 
Ai'qua, near Padua, when Chaucer is known to have been at 
Florence. There was nothing to prevent Chaucer from visit- 
ing Petrarch ; while, on the other hand, it is extremely likely 
that he would have desired such a meeting. That his 
visit to Padua should not be found recorded in the Issue 
PfcoUs cannot be alleged as a ground of doubt, because the 
PkoUs mention none of the places he visited except Florence 
and Genoa, to which cities he appears to have gone on the 


business of his mission. The time when Petrarch made tho 
Latin translation oi'the tak^ol' Grisclda from i\\c Decameron 
(wliich transkition is supposed to have furnished Chaucer 
with the htory), cannot be iixed with precision ; but it is 
needless to enter upon a discussion of dales which are not 
disputed, for the purpose of showing that the translation was 
made before the period of the supposed meeting. If Sir 
Harris Nicolas's opinion that Chaucer was not acquainted 
with Italian (an opinion which most readers of Chaucer's 
poetry will agree with Mr. Wriglit in rejecting), could be 
admitted to be well-founded, it would help still further to 
sustain the inference that Chaucer did not get the story from 
the Decameron ,\)\\i from a Latin source, and, therefore, most 
probably, from Petrarch's translation. But it is not necessary 
to establish this inference in order to support the supposition 
that he procured the story from Petrarch. It does not seem 
very certain from the language of the Clerk that he obtained 
it from a translation, or from a writing of any kind, but 
rather from word of mouth. He tells us distinctly enough 
that he ' learned' it of a ' worthy clerk,' and again that ' this 
worthy man taught' him the tale. It is true that towards 
the conclusion of the tale he tells us that Pi^trarch ' writeth 
this storie,' a circumstance which does not invalidate the pre- 
sumption that Chaucer may have learned it orally from 
Petrarch. Upon this point, a note (which has escaped the 
vigilance of Chaucer's biographers) made by Petrarch upon 
his translation, may be thought to possess some interest. 
Petrarch observes, in reference to the story of G-risehla, that 
* he had heard it many years before' — that is, before Boccaccio 
had made it the subject of one of the novels of the Decameron. 
As it thus appears that he was well acquainted with the 
story, which was, in all probability, a popular legend, he 
might consequently have related the substance of it to 
Chaucer, before he had made his translation of the novel, or 
before he had even seen the Decameron. The allusion by 
the Clerk of Oxentbrd to the fact that Petrarch had written 
the story, does not necessarily imply that Chaucer received it 


in that shape; because The Canterbury Tales were not com- 
posed till many years after Petrarch's death, when the trans- 
lation must have been generally known.' The omission, also, 
of all notice of Boccaccio, to whom Chaucer had been largely 
indebted, not only in The Canterbury Talcs, but upon other 
occasions, although not in itself conclusive, is, at least, a sug- 
gestive element in the case. If Petrarch had communicated 
the story as having derived it himself from Boccaccio, it may 
be presumed that Chaucer would have made some reference 
to its original source. That he has not acknowledged his 
obligations to Boccaccio elsewhere is nothing to the purpose ; 
for in those instances he makes no acknowledgment whatever, 
while here he goes out of his way to make an explicit avowal 
of his authority. 

The only object of sifting such points as these is to exhaust 
the speculations that present themselves in the course of the 
inquiry, and to reduce a question of some literary interest to 
its exact limits. The result is clear and simple. There are 
no proofs that Chaucer and Petrarch met at Padua ; nor ib 
there, on the other hand, any constructive or collateral evi- 
dence, as to time, place, or circumstances, to show that such 
a meeting was impossible, or even unlikely. The fact rests 
altogether on Chaucer's own testimony, given in the person 
of the Clerk of Oxenford, and the precision of that testimony 
should not be overlooked in weighing the amount of credit to 
which it is entitled. The Clerk does not say in general terms 
that he obtained the story from Petrarch, but that he learned 
it from him at Padua. A statement so particular carries at 
all events the appearance of being intended to apply to an 
actual occurrence, and not to a fictitious incident. 

The death of the Duchess Blanche in 1369 supplied 
Chaucer with the subject of his poem called The Booh of the 
Duchess, known in the early editions by the less appropriate 

' Tetrarch died in July, i 3"+, and the earliest date atisigned to Tht 
Canterbury Tales is subsequent to 1 386. 


title of TJie Dream of Chaucer. Mr. Godwin thinks that, 
from the tenor of tin's poem, 'we may conclude with cei-tainty 
that Chaucer was unmarried when he wrote it;' a fact in 
which he is confirmed by the discovery that Philippa Picard, 
who, he says, was 'unquestionably' the wife of Chaucer, 
received a pension from the King in her maiden name in 
1370, and, therefore, could not have been married to Chaucer 
till afterwards. This is a characteristic sample of the errors 
into which the imaginative biographers of Chaucer have 
fallen ; errors which they frequently endeavour to support by 
trains of reasoning that commit tliem to .still more extrava- 
gant hypotheses. Thus, in order to account for the singular 
circumstance of the daughter of Sir Payne Roet not bearing 
her father's name, Mr. Godwin informs us that it was very 
common in France for persons to have ' two' surnames (which 
there is no evidence whatever to show was the case with the 
lady in question), and tliat, consequently, brothers and sisters 
'often exhibited in their ordinary signatures no token of 
relationship.' It is almost superfluous to observe that this 
statement, whatever it may be otherwise worth, is only a 
waste of ingenious speculation in reference to the Roetfamilv, 
who were natives of Germany, and, therefore, not governed 
by the customs of France. Believing that he had found in 
Chaucer's poems some grounds for the opinion that the poet 
had been ten years a suitor to this Pliilippa Picard, Mr. 
Godwin thinks it necessary to explain why she did not marry 
him sooner; and then he proceeds to assign the reason. He 
takes it for granted that she could not have been indifferent 
to the pretensions of so accomplished a lover ; ' but,' he adds, 
not in the language of inference or supposition, but as if it 
were an ascertained fact, ' she could not resolve to quit the 
service of her royal mistress.' The 'main topic of her 
objection,' however, having been removed by the death of the 
Queen, Mr. Godwin tells us that ' their nuptials were cele- 
brated as soon as the general laws of decorum, and tlie idejw 
of I'emalb delicacy, would allow 1' 


Tlie next authentic notice of Chaucer occuis in a writ 
dated 23rd April, 1374, granting him a pitcher of wine dailj-,' 
afterwards commuted into a money payment." In the same 
year he was appointed Comptroller of the Customs in the 
Port of London, under strict conditions that he was to write 
the rolls of his office with his own hand, to be constantly pre- 
sent, and to perform all the duties in person, and not by 
deputy.^ At the same time the pension of 10^., which the 
Duke of Lancaster had conferred upon the poet's wife two 
years before, was converted into an annuity to both, to be 
held for life by the survivor, and to be paid out of the 
revenues of the Savoy. In 1375, Chaucer obtained a grant of 
the lands and custody of the son and heir of Edmond Staple- 
gate, of Bilsynton, in Kent ;■* and also the custody of five 
' solidates' of rent in Solys, in Kent, a matter of little pecu- 
niary value.' 

Soon afterwards we find Chau(;er employed on two secret 
missions; in 1376 in the 'comitiva,' or retinue, of Sir John 
Burley; and in .1377 in association with Sir Thomas Percy 
(afterwards Earl of Worcester), with whom he proceeded to 
Flanders. The objects of these missions are not recorded; 

' This grant has given occasion to a variety of speculations as to 
the circumstances under wliich it took place ; but they may be dis- 
missed as having no more claim to credit than Speght's report of 
Chaucer having been present in Slilan vith Petrarch, at the Duke of 
Clarence's marriage, in 1 368 — a circumstance of which no proof of any 
kind can be adduced. 

- The money value of the grant may be estimated from the amount 
received in payment of the wine for a period of eight months from 
October, i 376, to .June, 1377 — "jl. zs. 6^d.; a large sum at that period. 

3 None of the rolls in the handwriting of Chaucer are known to 
exist ; and tlie only record that has been traced having relation ta 
his office is a grant to Iiim, in 1376, of a sum of 7ii. 4s. 6d., being a fine 
levied on one John Kent, of London, for shipping some wool to 
Dordrecht witliout paying the duty, the attempted fraud having been 
apparently brouglit to light by the vigilance of Chaucer. 

'' It appears that this was a lucrative guardianship, tlie sum of 104?. 
having been paid to Chaucer for the wardship and marriage of the 

* A 'solidate,' according to Blount, was as much land as was worth 
a shilling annually : but Sir Ilurris Kicolas thinks there is great doubt 
nr to its precise value. 


bat it is stated by Froissart that in the February of the 
latter year he was joined with Sir Guichard d' Angle (after- 
wards Earl of Huntingdon) and Sir Richard Strong to 
negociate a secret treaty for the marriage of Richard, Prince 
of Wales, with Mary, daughter of the King of France. Sir 
Harris Nicolas shows that Froissart has mistaken the dates 
and the circumstances. Chaucer was in Flanders in February 
with Sir Thomas Percy, and was in London in April, when 
he received a pajTnent in person on account of his services, 
and was again despatched with a letter of protection to con- 
tinue in force till the following August. In the June of this 
year Edward III. died, and his successor, Richard II., con- 
tinued to Chaucer his annual grant of 20 marks, with an 
additional grant of the same amount, in lieu of the daily 
pitcher of wine. In January, 1378, he was joined with Sir 
Guichard d' Angle and others in the negociation for the King's 
marriage ; and, returning in a short time to England, was 
sent in the month of May, with Sir Edward Berkeley, to 
Lombardy on an embassy, the precise nature of which is not 
known. Throughout the whole of these diplomatic engage- 
ments, for which Chaucer received regular payments, he con- 
tinued to hold his office of Comptroller of the Customs ; and 
as the condition of personal attendance had not yet been 
formally abrogated, we must infer that he received special 
permission to absent himself on these occasions. 

Upon his departure for Lombardy, it was necessary that he 
should have two representatives ' to appear lor him in the 
courts ;'' and the persons he selected were John Gower, the 
poet, and one Richar.l Forrester. This evidence of the long- 
standing friendship between Chaucer and Gower affords a 
gratifying confirmation of the personal regard they expressed 
towards each other in their works; and which we would 
willingly believe to have lasted to the end of their lives, 
notwithstanding that its dissolution some time beiore 

' Sir n. Nicolas. It is not clear for what purpose, whether in 
reference to his oUice, or his private affairs. 


Chaucer's death has been made a subject of discussion bj 

Chaucer's commcntiitors.' 

Early in 1379 Chaucer returned to England; and nothing 
more is known of him, except that he continued to receive 
his pensions either in person or by assignment, till 1382, 
when he was appointed Comptroller of the Petty Customs in 
the Port of London, in addition to his former office. We 
learn further, from the researches of his last biographer, that 
in November, 1384, he obtained a mouth's leave of absence, 
on account of his private affairs, on which occasion a deputy 
was sworn in to perform his duties; and that in the following 
February he was finally released from the drudgery of personal 
attendance, by being allowed to appoint a permanent deputy. 

Being now at liberty to consult his own inclinations, he 
turned his attention to political affairs, and was elected one of 
the representatives of Kent in the Parliament which met at 
Westminster on the ist October, 1386. All circumstances 
concur in justifying the supposition that he entered the House 
of Commons for the purpose of supporting the ministers of 
the day, who were in the interest of his friend and patron, the 
Duke of Lancaster. The Parliament sat only a month ; and 
its proceedings were directed with great violence against the 

1 The grounds upon which their friendship is supposed to have been 
interrupted will be found stated in the introduction to the Man of 
Lawes Tale, vol. ii. p. 9. The received notion that Gouer was ante- 
cedent to Chaucer is entirely erroneous. It obtained currency from 
Dr. Johnson's hasty assertion that Chaucer was Gower's ' disciple.' 
The date of Gower's birth is assumed by Mr. Todd to have been about 
i3iS ; but it was probably several years later, as he survived Chaucer 
eight years. A sliort time before his death he undertook the revision 
of the Confesaio Amnntin, which he would scarcely have attempted had 
he attained the great age of HI- Nothing is known with certainty of 
his family. Caxton says he ^vas boin in Wales. All other authorities 
derive his extraction from the Gowers of Stittcnham, in Vorksliire, 
now represented by the Duke of Sutherland ; but Sir Harris Nicolas 
has clearly shown (lict. Rev , N. S., ii. 105) that this statement is 
unfounded. He was evidently possessed of considerable property, 
although he was not a knight, as the old writers assert, and as the 
inscription oi armiijrr on his tomb disiirovcs. lie was attached through 
life to the party ul Ihomasof Woodstock, and recived Inim llonry IV. 
a collar, with a swan attached, vvidch is represented on his monumen 
la the church of St. Mary Uvery (St. Saviour's), bouthwark. 


f;f)vernment,' Tliere was little opportunily for displaying 
much zeal in the service of the Duke, whose influence was 
now rapidly declining ; but Chaucer's known devotion to his 
cause was sufficient to bring him under the displeasure of 
the hostile advisers who soon afterwards obtained tlie confi- 
dence of the King. To this source may in pint, if not alto- 
gether, be ascribed the reason of his dismissal in December, 
1386, from both the offices he held in the Customs. 

A commission was issued in November, 1386, to inquire 
into alleged abuses in the departments of the Subsidies and 
Customs ; an investigation which seems to have led to no 
results. It is possible, but in the last degi-ee unlikely, 
judging from subsequent circumstances, that Chaucer may 
have been dismissed in consequence of defaults in the dis- 
charge of his duties. It is much more probable, however, 
that his connexion with the Duke of Lancaster, and, to some 
extent, his attachment to the Duke's principles (although it 
is by no means certain that he entertained the same extreme 
views on ecclesiastical questions) mainly influenced this harsh 

In addition to the loss of his offices in 1386, Chaucer suf- 
fered a severe domestic misfortune in 1387 by the death of 

» It was durin^!? the sitting of tiiis Parliament that Chaucer was 
examined as a witness on the riglit of Lord Scrope to the Arms ' azure 
a bead or,' in opposition to the claim of Sir Kobert Grosvenor. As 
every personal anecdote relating to Chaucer deserves preservation, the 
concluding passage of his deposition will be read witli interest. After 
stating that he had always heard that these arms belonged to the 
family of Scrope from time immemorial, and that he had seen Lord 
Scrope so armed in France, Chaucer replies to the interrogation as to 
whether he had ever heard of any interruption or challenge by Sir 
Ilichard Grosvenor or any of his ancestors ? ' Ko ; but he said that he 
was once walking in Friday-street, in London, and, as he was walking 
in the street, he saw hanging a new sign made of the said arms, and 
he asked what inn that was that had hung out these arms of Scrope 7 
and one answered him, and said. No, sir, they are not hung out for the 
arms of Scrope, nor painted there for these arms, but they are painted 
and put there by a kniglit of Chester, whom men call Sir Kobert 
Grosvenor; and that was the first time he ever heard speak of Sir 
Robert Grosvenor, or of his ancestors, or of any other bearing the name 
of Grosvenor.' 


his wife. With certain exceptions which have not been 
accounted for, slie received the pension settled upon her by 
Queen Philippa, and afterwards confirmed by Richard II., 
from 1366 to June, 1387 ; after which date no further notice 
of her name appears, so that it is supposed she died before 
her next half-year's payment became due. Of Chaucer nothing 
is known dming the years 1387 and 1388, except that he re- 
gularly received his two pensions, and that in the May of the 
latter year they were both cancelled at his own request, and 
assigned to one John Scalby, to whom he had probably sold 
them under the pressure of distress. 

The dismissal of Thomas of Woodstock, the King's uncle, 
and of Walsingham, the Chancellor, and their colleagues, in 
May, 1389, and the appointment of new ministers, one of 
whom was the son of the Duke of Lancaster, once more 
brought Chaucer's friends into power ; and only a few months 
elapsed beibre they found an opportunity of advancing his 
interests. In July, 1389, he was appointed Clerk of the 
King's Works, embracing the Palace at Westminster, the 
Tower, the royal manors of Kennington, Eltham, Clarendon, 
Sheen, Bylleet, Childern Langley, and Feckenham, the lodges 
in the New Forest and the royal parks, and at the mews for 
the King's falcons at Charing Cross. This important office 
he was permitted to execute by deputy, and his salary was 
two shillings per diem. Payments made to him immediately 
after his appointment, show that he entered upon his duties 
at once ; and the nature of the works in which he was en- 
gaged is exhibited in a commission dated 12th July, 1390, 
directing him to execute certain repairs at St. George's 
Chapel, in the Castle of Windsor. The cause of his retire- 
ment from this office has not been ascertained ; but there is 
no doubt that he ceased to fill the situation some time in the 
course of 139 1, as in the September of that year it was held 
by one John Gedney. 

A long chasm now occiu-s in his history. Godwin supposes 
that he retired to Woodstock; and also that in March, 1391 
{while he was yet Clerk of the Works), he wrote his Con- 


cJitsions of the Astroluhic, acMrcsscd to his son, ' little Lewis.' 
'I'he latter snpiiosition is founded upon <a date introduced 
into the treatise to illustrate the working of two of the 

Of Chaucer's pecuniary resources during the interval from 
1391 up to February, 1394, when he obtained a grant from 
the King of 20I. a year for life, nothing is known, except 
that he still enjoyed his pension of 10^. from the Savoy, and 
his wages as King's Esquire, the value of which, beyond an 
allowance of forty shillings half-yearly for robes, is doubtful. 
That he was reduced to great distress is sufficiently evident 
from numerous small loans which he obtained on his new 
pension, and which have been traced through the Issue Rolls 
by Sir Harris Nicolas down to the year 1398 ;- and from the 
fact that in May, 1398, the King granted him letters to pro- 
tect him against arrest. In these letters it was set forth that 
his JMajesty had appointed him to perform sundry arduous 
and urgent duties, and that, fearing he might be impeded in 
the execution of them by various suits, his Majesty took him 
under his special protection, forbidding any one to sue or 
arrest him on any plea, except it were connected with land, 
for a tei-m of two years. Letters of this description were 
matters of form, in which, as in this case, the duties were 
sometimes a mere fiction to cover the real object of protecting 
the freedom of the recipient. 

• ' Ensample as thus. The yere of our Lorde a thousande, thre hun- 
dred, ninetie and one the xii. daic of JIarclie at middaie, I Mould 
knowe the degree of tlie soune, &c. ;' and again, ' The yere of our 
Lorde a thousande, tlirc liundved, ninetie and one, the twelveth daie of 
Marclie, I would knowe the tide of the daie, &c.' — Tlie Conclusions oj 
the AstroUibie. From tliese passages Speght assumed tliat the treatise 
was written in 1391, an inference amplified more circumstantially by 
Godwin, who alsD takes it for granted, Irom a passing reference to the 
latitude of Oxford, that Chaucer must have been at the time in the neigh- 
bourhood of that city. [The date is now generally accepted— W. W. S.] 

- The extremity of his circumstances is exhibited in the trifling 
amounts of some of loans. On one occ;i.sion he borrowed il. 6s. M.; 
and on the 24th .July, ii()'i, he ajjplied in person, at tlie Exchequer, 
for a I'lau ot 6s. 8(i., and went again, a week afterwards, to solicit a 
similar sum. 


Chaucer's pecuniary circumstances throughout the greater 
part of his life must have been ample for the maintenance 
of that position in society which his connections entitled him 
to hold ; although it cannot be very readily believed, accord- 
ing to the construction put upon some passages in his works, 
that at one period he lived in great splendour, or that, 
according to Speght, he had altogether an income of one 
thousand pounds per annum. The fluctuations that took 
place from time to time in his resources, and the want of 
information as to the profits he derived from his various 
appointments, render the total amount of his income a 
matter of speculation. For many years previously to the 
death of his wife, his pensions yielded him about 40?. a-year, 
afterwards reduced, by the sale of his annuities, to 10^., 
again raised, by a new grant, to 30^., and finally increased, 
in the last year of his life, to about 62I. Assuming 
that his offices, especially with contingent advantages 
attached to them (of which we have an instance in the 
penalty levied on a defaulter in the Customs, and bestowed 
upon Chaucer), were more lucrative than his pensions, 
Chaucer's revenues, while he held his appointments, may be 
safely averaged at double these amounts.^ It is not easy to 
ascertain what such an income ought to be rated at by the 
present value of money. The materials upon which the cal- 
culation should be founded are contradictory and perplexing ; 
and the writers who have discussed the question differ so 
widely in the conclusions at which they have arrived, that 
they may be said to have complicated rather than dimi- 
nished the difficulty. Godwin, who investigated the subject 
minutely, estimates the value of money in the fourteenth 
century as being equal to eighteen times the same amount 
in the nineteenth ; Sir Harris Nicolas is inclined to reduce 
this estimate nearly one-half; wliile a comparison of the 
prices of articles of consumption in the two periods would 

• Sir Harris Nicolas, properly anxious to avoid exaggeration, is 
content to eet down Chaucer's offices at half the value of his pensions. 


jastify us in multiplying the nominal value of money in the 
fourteenth century at least thirty or forty times to bring it 
to the present standard.* We cannot, therefore, obtain any 
satisfactory results by a comparison between the conditions 
of the fourteenth century and those of the nineteenth ; but 
some light may be thrown upon the inquiry by an examina- 
tion of the relative conditions developed in the former period, 
without reference to the latter. Although we cannot deter- 
mine with accuracy how much any given sum in Chaucer's 
time would represent in our own, we may form a sufficient 
estimate of Chaucer's circumstances from contemporary data. 
The salary of the chief judges in the fourteenth century 
was 40/. a-year, and that of the puisne judges, with some 
variations, was 26I. 13*, 4^. If, as has been conjectured, the 
judges had perquisites in addition to their salaries, these 
sums do not exhibit the full value of their offices ; but they 
furnish, nevertheless, a clue to the relative circumstances 01 
different classes, ilaids of honour were pensioned with 
annuities equal to one-fourth of the salary of a puisne judge ; 
the court physician received a pension of looL a-year, and 
an apothecary, who had attended the Kir.g in a dangerous 
illness, sixpence j>er diem. Sir Edward Montagu had a 
pension of lool. a-year; and the Duke of Brabant of 1500/. 
Descending to the wages of the lower classes, as a further 
test of comparative values, we find that irf., 2d., and ^d. a-dav 
was paid to labourers and handicraftsmen — amounts much 
in excess of the ratio of payments made to persons in a 
higher station of life. The result, so far as Chaucer is 

' Biihop Fleetwood's Chromrum Pndi-s-jru supplies ihe details trf 
prices from which the compariioii may be made. In 1 556 wheat was 
i«. a qnaner. in 1 359 it rose to the unprecedented price of 35*., but in 
two j-eari afterwards it fell a^ain to »?.. at which price it appears to 
hare continued for several vears. In I3s9, t-ariey was i*. ; and in 
13^0. a stone of wool Is. The price of a fat ox in 135s was fc. Sd . 
and in 15+3 two oxen i5*. A cow 5s., two hens id., a hog i*. 6d.. a, 
horse about 4cj., a gallon of white wine 6d.. of red wine 4d.. and a 
ton of wine about +/., are among-st the prices quoted in Chaucer's time. 
The reader who desires to follow np the inquiry may be referred to God- 
win s ZiTety" Chaucer, iL Sa>- 33, and TheJaetrotpeetive Berittc.U. iSi)-»o. 
VOL. I. Ti 


concerned, shows that, whatever may be the nominal vakie 
at which we should rate his income according to our 
standard, it was fully equal to the position of a gentleman in 
his own time. His pensions, exclusive of his offices, ranged 
for many years with the salaries of the Chief Bai'on 
of the Exchequer and the Chief Justice of the Common 
Pleas; and if we add to the income he derived from 
these sources as much more from the responsible employ- 
ments in which he was engaged, we may reasonably conclude 
that, with the exception of the interval of reverse that 
ensued upon the loss of his offices and the sale of his pen- 
sions, he was for the greater part of his life in the enjoyment 
of no inconsiderable independence. The prosperity which had 
been inteiTupted by these cii'cumstances happily returned to 
brighten the close of his career. 

In 1398, another grant of wine was bestowed upon him — 
a ton annually, equal to about 4I. a-year ; and in the follow- 
ing year Henry IV., the son of his deceased patron, the Duke 
of Lancaster, four days after he ascended the throne, con- 
ferred upon him a grant of 26I. 13?. ^d. a year, in addition 
to the annuity of 20I. bestowed by Eichard II. This grant 
is dated on the 3rd of October, 1399. Chaucer was now 
seventy-one years of age ; and the royal bounty came in time 
to console the last year of his life. 

It has been generally believed that Chaucer latterly resided 
at Donington Castle, near Newbury, in Berkshire. This 
tradition, acquiring various circumstantial embellishments in 
its descent, has been repeated by several writers ;' but, even 

' The earliest notice of Chaucer's residence at Donington occurs in 
Camden's Drilannica. Tlie reference is slight, and inexact. Speght 
copies it, and adds an allusion to an oak, which he designates a3 
Chaucer's oak. Evelyn and Ashniole faithfully record the oak, the 
latter aup;menting the stream of particulars by calling the poet 'Sir 
Geoffrey Chaucer,' and saying that he composed many of his celebrated 
pieces under the oak. Mr. Godwin improves upon these iletails by 
telling us that the Duke of Lancaster purchased the castle, and 
bestowed it upon Chaucer, being ' determined, in the feudal sense, to 
ennoble him!" although he elsewhere suggests that 'the circum- 
stances of Chaucer himself might be considered as rendering it some- 


if Cliaucer's necessities throughout the period when he is 
supposed to have kept up that costly establishment were not 
conclusive against its probability, it is discredited by other 
circumstances. Donington Castle was built by Sir Richard 
Abberbury, who was in possession of it in 1392. It after- 
wards became the property of Sir John Phelip, the first hus- 
band of Chaucer's grand-daughter. This gentleman died in 
1415 ; and there is no evidence of any previous connexion of 
any member of Chaucer's family with Donington Castle, nor 
is there any ground for supposing that Sir John Phelip's 
tenure commenced till after Chaucer's death. Upon the 
subsequent marriage of Sir John Phelip's widow, it passed into 
the possession of her second husband, the Duke of Sutiblk. 

The story of a residence in Berkshire is further shown to 
be groundless by the ascertained fact that Chaucer was un- 
questionably living in London during the last three years of his 
life, and that on Christmas Eve, 1399, he entered upon the lease 
of a house in Westminster for a term of fifty-three years at 
the annual rent of 2I. 13s. ^d. Had he been residing in Berk- 
shire, it is not likely that at his advanced age he would have 
come up to London, and encumbered himself with another 
establishment. The tenement was situated in the Garden of 
the Chapel of the Blessed Mary of Westminster, said to be 
very nearly the same spot on which Henry the Seventh's 
Chapel stands; and it was demised to Chaucer by Robert Her- 
modesworth, a monk, with the consent of the Abbot and con- 
vent of that place. The stipulations of the lease provided 
that if the rent ran into arrear for filteen days, the lessor 
should have power to distrain ; and that if the tenant died 
during the term of the lease, the premises should revert to 
the Custos of the Chapel. The latter contingency happened 
within the first j'ear of the occupancy of the tenement. 
Chaucer died on the 25th October, 1400, at the age of seventy- 
two, and was buried in Westminster Abbej'. 

what improbable that he had made guch an acquisition toward the 
close of his liCf.' 


We have an interesting evidence of tlie tranquillity and 
resignation of Chaucer's last hours in the little poem be- 
ginning — 

Flie fro the prease, and dwell with soothfastnesse, 

which he is said to have composed on his death-bed ;' and if 
the concluding passage of The Canterhury Tales may be 
considered genuine, Chaucer not only looked back with regret 
upon certain parts of his writings, but expressed his desire to 
suppress them in some formal retraction, of which no trace 
has been recovered.^ He is said by some writers to have 
been buried in the Cloisters,^ and afterwards removed to the 
Chapel, but this statement is shown to be erroneous by 
Caxton. The following lines, from an epitaph by Stephanus 
Surigonius, of Milan, were originally inscribed on a slab 
placed on a pillar near his grave :•* — 

Galfridus Chaucer vates, et fama poesis 
Maternae, hac sacra sum tumulatus humo. 

In 1556, the present monument of grey marble was erected 

by Mr. Nicholas Brighara, with the subjoined inscription, now 

nearly defaced, and a full-length of Chaucer, the head, costume, 

and attitude of which are taken from Occleve's portrait : — 

M. s. 
Qui fuit anglorum vates ter maximtjs glim, 

GALFRIDUS CHAUCER conditur hoc tumllO; 
Annum si qu^ras domini, si tempora vit^ 

ecce kot^ subsunt, qu^ tibi cuncta notant. 

35 octobris 1 400. 

ierumnarvm bequies mors. 

N. Brigham hos fecit musarum nomine sumptus 


' The poem is entitled, GwU Counsaile of Chaucer; and in a MS. 
in the Cottonian library the following words were found inserted before 
the title ; — ' A Balade made by Geffrey Chaucer upon his detlie bedde 
leying in his grete anguysse.' Upon this authority the statement rests. 
The 3IS. (Otho, A xviii.) on which it was written was destroyed by 
a fire in which many volumes of the Cottonian library were consumed. 

' See note at tlie end of The Canterbury Tales. 

^ Fox's Acts mid Monuments. 

•• Leland says they were put up by Caxton, at whose request they 
were written. Tlie statement of the erection of a tomb earlier than 
that placed over the grave by 3[r. Brigham is not entitled to credit. 


Attached to the tomb, probably on a led^e of brass, were these 
verses, which have long disappeared: — 

Si rogitos quis cram, forsan to fama docebit 
Quod si fama negat, mundi quia gloria transit 
Haec monumcnta lege. 

Chaucer had two sons, Thomas and Lewis, the latter, to 
whom the treatise on the astrolabe was addressed, is supposed 
to have died in his youth. The former married IMatilda, the 
second daughter and co-heiress of Sii* John Burghersh, by 
whom he acquired large estates in Oxfordshire and other 
counties. In addition to grants and offices conferred upon 
him by John of Gaunt, he was appointed Chief Butler to 
Richard II., a situation which he continued to hold, with a 
short intermission, under the three succeeding sovereigns. 
Henry IV. appointed him Constable of Wallingford Castle, and 
Steward of the Honours of Wallingford and St. Valery, and of 
the Chiltern Hundreds ; and the Queen granted him the farm 
of the manors of Woodstock, Hauburgh, Wotton, and Ston- 
field, with the hundred of Wotton, which, after her Majesty's 
death, the King confirmed to him for life. He represented 
Oxfordshire in Parliament for several years between T402 and 
1429, and was chosen Speaker of the Commons in 1414; and 
in the same year was appointed Commissioner to treat of 
Henry V.'s marriage with Katherine of France. He was 
present at the battle of Agincourt, and served in most of 
the expeditions under Henry V. In the following reign he 
was appointed a member of the King's Council ; the Duchess 
of York selected him as one of her executors ; and several 
notices occur of the important employments in which he 
was engaged. He died in 1434. His only child, Alice, 
was married, first to John Philip, who died without issue, 
and afterwards to the Duke of Suffolk (attainted and be- 
headed in 1450), by whom she had three children. She died 
in 1475, and, adds Sir Harris Nicolas, from whose careful 
biography these particulars have been collected, her issue 


having failed, the descendants of the poet are presumed to 
be extinct.' 

The most authentic description of the person of Chaucer is 
that which is given in the words of the host of the Tabard, 
when he calls upon him for his story. It may be inferred 
that at this time Chaucer had grown somewhat corpulent, as 
the host, who was ' a large man,' banters him upon having a 
waist as well shaped as his own ; but it is evident that his 
features were still small and fair, and wore that thoughtful 
expression which is conspicuous in his portrait. The host 
also notices his habit of abstraction, which is again alluded 
to in The House of Fame, where he is described sitting at his 
book till his look becomes dazed. In company he seems to 
have been retii-ed in his manner, and, as may be gathered from 
several allusions, to have been generally absorbed in contem- 
plation. Although, he tells us, he lived ' as a hennit,' he hints 
that he by no means practised abstinence when he went into 
society. The mixture of gravity and sweetness in Occleve's 
portrait conveys the perfect image of a character not less 
remarkable for its rare combination of power and sympathy, 
than for the variety of accomplishments by which it was 

1 The eldest son of the Duchess of Suffolk married the Princess 
Elizabeth Plantagenet, sister of Edward IV., whose eldest son, cre- 
ated Earl of Lincoln, was declared by Richard III. heir apparent to 
the throne, in the event of the death of the Prince of Wales witliout 
issue ; ' so that,' observes Sir Harris Xicolas, 'there was strong proba- 
bility of the great great grandson of the poet succeeding to the crowu.' 
The Earl of Lincoln was slain at the battle of Stoke in 1487. 


Geoffeet Chaucee is properly designated the Father of 
English Poetry. He acqtiires his right to that title not only 
on the ground of being our earliest poet, but because the 
foundations he laid still support the fabric of our poetical 
literature, and will outlast the vicissitudes of taste and lan- 
guage. His greatest contemporaries and successors have 
recognized and confirmed his claim to this distinction. 
Lydgate calls him the 'chief poete of Bretayne,' and the 
' lode-sterre' of our language, and says that he was the first 
to distil and rain the gold dewdrops of speech and eloquence 
into our tongue ; Occleve calls him ' the fynder of our fayre 
laniraire ;' lioerer Ascham describes him as the ' English 
Homer,' and considers 'his sayinges to have as much 
authority as eyther Sophocles or Euripides in Greke ;' and 
Spenser speaks of him as ' the pure well-head of poetry,' 
and 'the well of English undefiled.' Poet, soldier, and 
diplomatist, and master of the philosophy, science, and 
divinity of his time, the versatility of his genius is not more 
remarkable than the practical judgment he displayed in its 
employment. With a complete command of the springs of 
universal interest, the tragical and the humorous, the 
solemn and the gay, the sublime and the grotesque, he 
applied his knowledge of life and nature, his consummate 
art, the copious resources of an imagination that seemed 
incapable of exhaustion, and a power of expression as exten- 
sive as the empire of his genius, to the creation of works 
which, wliile they retlect in vivid colours the features of his 
own time, possess also an enduring value for all time to 
come. This is not the least striking aspect of the labours 
of a poet who fiourished five hundred years ago, before books 


were printed, or a reading public existed. Others who have 
written since, in a spirit and an idiom more a<!cessible to the 
popular understanding, have passed into oblivion ; but 
Chaucer still keeps his place. The modes and usages he 
portrayed have long since vanished ; yet his pictures retaiu 
their original freshness and fascination. The language in 
which he wrote has long ceased to be the language of the 
people ; yet the eager student conquers its structural diffi- 
culties with delight to enter upon the treasures it tkrows 
open to him. 

The peculiar interest of Chaucer's poetry arises not only 
from its intrinsic merit, but from the singularly clear and full 
idea it conveys of a state of society for which modern expe- 
"ience furnishes no parallel, while, at the same time, it is 
p»'egnant with elements of thought which exert an influence 
even in our own day. A close observer of character, and of 
all those fugitive traits that mark and indicate its individual 
peculiarities, Chaucer has adopted in The Canterbury Tales 
a plan that enables him to depict almost every class of 
society, and which also combines in itself the various kinds of 
composition employed as the vehicles of popular beliefs 
and feelings in the Middle Ages. From his works may be 
learned much more satisfactorily than from the chronicles 
of his contemporaries, or the more elaborate compilations of 
later historians, the modes of thought, habits, and manners 
which prevailed in the reigns of Edward III. and his imme- 
diate successors ; the era in which the Norman and Saxon 
races became fused, and our language and social institutions 
assumed forms that have descended with some modifications 
to the present time. A strong government had at length 
secured internal peace; the supremacy of law over brute 
force was established ; a native literature was initiated ; and 
commerce and the arts of life began to flourish. Society 
was preparing for an advanced stage in its progress; the 
old traditions were insensibly losing their ascendancy ; and 
new views and principles were in course of development. 
These mutations are reflected with extraordinary fidelity ia 


Chaucer's poetry; nor can we obtain elsewhere so close a 
view of the immediate elTects they produced. 

The special cliaracter of the middle ages may be traced to 
the national peculiarities of the Northern races who sup- 
planted the Roman Empire, and set up their stronger and 
less corrupt barbarism on the ruins of the ancient and de- 
cayed civilization. Classical literature, embodying the old 
idolatry, with all its hideous crimes and abuses, its Eleusi- 
nian mysteries and gladiatorial games, was swept away by 
the victorious hordes, as being unlit for the study of Christian 
men, and unworthy of their more manly taste. To supply its 
place they set about the task of forming a literature of their 
own ; assigning a paramount importance to metaphysical 
investigations, and, above all, to inquiries into the nature of 
the Deity and the human soul, and their relations to each 
other. In such studies the Teutonic mind found a congenial 
pursuit, and displayed an unrivalled subtlety. 

The schoohnen, adapting their themes to the predominant 
work of the age, lectured earnestly to thousands of students 
who found in the universities and monasteries retreats where 
alone they could enjoy repose and securit}'. Here Abelard, 
Thomas Aquinas, and Duns Scotus devoted themselves to ab- 
struse speculations; while outside the cloisters society was 
convulsed by the interminable wars of the great feudal 
vassals, who, although acknowledging a common suzerainete, 
were in fact sovereigns within theu- own territories. 

Poetry was one of the natural products of this state of 
things. Familiarity with the scenes of violence incidental 
to such circumstances furnished abundant materials, which 
the imagination, nurtured in solitude, idealized into those 
lyrical ballads and metrical romances which constituted the 
popular lore of the middle ages. There was then no print- 
ing press to multiply and disseminate the creations of the 
muse ; and oral recitation anticipated the advent of the broad- 
sheet and the book. Hence the banquets of the nobility and 
the merrj'niakings of the lower orders were always enlivened 
by the presence of the minstrel, jongleur, <,^estour, gleeman, 


or minne-sinfjer, who, like the reciters of the Homeric 
ballads, related in poetical diction, and to a musical accom- 
paniment, the exciting achievements, perilous adventui-es, and 
chivalrous loves of their heroes. 

Songs and metrical legends marked the infancy of this 
great movement ; but as mental education advanced, the 
metaphysical and religious tone of the age created a demand, 
even at these festal entertainments, for disquisitions on the 
properties of spiritual essences and the grounds of moral 
duty. Thus, as we learn from Erasmus in his Treatise on 
Preaching entitled Ecclesiastes, the jongleurs, who rapidly 
caught up eveiy new phase of progress and opinion, dexte- 
rously varied their lighter subjects by the delivery of dis- 
courses, committed to memory, on topics of the highest im- 
port, such as the mystery of the Trinity, and other funda- 
mental doctrines of the Church. Nothing, indeed, strikes 
the student of mediaeval literature with so much surprise on 
his first acquaintance with it, as the remarkable manner in 
which Christianity enters into and directs all the ideas of 
the people of those ages. That particular form in which they 
embodied theli- faith is found interwoven with all their social 
relations, and regulating even their mode of counting time, 
their business, and their amusements. A religion so deeply 
seated in the daily details of life became inevitably cor- 
rupted by popular superstitions. The universal belief in the 
supernatural, in the power of Divine grace, in the reality of 
the coufllct continually going on between good and evil, and 
in the direct interference of Providence on the side of virtue. 
Is evinced in the predilection for those religious fictions which 
represented faith and unbelief, Christianity and error, under 
a masquerade of actual personages. Most of the legends of 
the Saints are evidently pure allegories, invented by lectm-ers 
for the purpose of impressing particular points of theology 
on the minds of their pupils. In the manner of a memoria 
technica ; and even when founded on real cli'cumstances, 
they were varied by each succeeding narrator according to 
his own fancy, or the instruction he desired to convey. 


Turning to the reverse of this picture, we find, as mi^'ht 
bo expected, that the relaxation of a people whose minds 
were thus highly strung took a direction of singular gro- 
tesqueness. They endeavoured to relieve the absorbing in- 
terest of the subjects that mainly engrossed their thoughts 
by contemplating them in ludicrous, and, sometimes, inco- 
herent combinations. Their chief pastimes consisted in the 
burlesque of their gravest convictions. This is not the form 
in which the gaiety of frivolous minds ever displays itself. 
The well-bred, and eas}-, and even serious hccntio i.^ness of 
Wycherley's comedies delighted the courtiers of Charles II. ; 
but the age of Bernard, and Thomas Aquinas, and Francis of 
Assissi, sought a vent for its hilarity in the extravagant 
drolls of the ' boy-bishop' and the ' Abbot of Misrule.' 
Coleridge profoundly observes, that 'farce,' which is one 
form of the grotesque, ' often borders on tragedy,' and that 
it ' is nearer tragedy in its essence than comedy is.' The 
close alliance, in the middle ages, between the profoundest 
speculations and the broadest absurdities forcibly illustrates 
the truth of his remark. 

It seemed desii'able to glance at these characteristics as a 
necessary introduction to the consideration of the structure 
and aims of The Canterbury Tales, in which the several 
species of poetry indigenous to the mediteval period, are not 
only combined and exemplified, but exhibited in a dramatic 
form which brings out the express features of the recitations 
of the gestour. The tale of chivalry, the moral and theological 
treatise, the legend of the Saints, the covert satire, and the 
humorous apologue, are all reproduced in his pages, treated, 
however, with a taste and power which will be looked for in 
vain amongst the merely popular poems of that, or, indeed, 
of any other, age. 

In Chaucer's poetry we have a true image of these varie- 
ties, brought to perfection by a genius that transcended its 
originals. His method of proceeding in The Canterhuri, 
Tales is the most eti'octive that could be devised for trans- 
mitting to subsequent ages an accui-ate expression of the 


social and moral development of his own. He never gene- 
ralizes — he never falls into disquisitions — he never draws 
conclusions. He avoids all modes of treatment that might 
afterwards become wearisome or unintellijjible ; and, descend- 
ing into the common life of the day, he shows us, as it were, 
the spirit of transition in actual operation amongst the 
different classes of the people, modifying their customs and 
opinions, drawing out into full play the salient points of the 
national character, and colouring even individual peculiarities 
to the most trivial details, which, in this aspect, acquire a 
special historical value. The humanity he thus imparts to 
his subjects invests them with a permanent interest, which 
neither the lapse of time, nor the revolutions of language, 
can impair or render obsolete ; and the instruction which, in 
another shape, would become dry and heavy, is here made to 
assume the most attractive forms. 

In no respect is he a more faithful interpreter of the spirit 
of the time than in his manner of treating ecclesiastical 
questions. The reign of Edward III. was the harbinger of 
the great ecclesiastical revolution of the sixteenth century. 
Not only the acts passed in this reign, the statutes of Pro- 
visors and of Mortmain, but the petitions presented by the 
Commons against the interference of the Pope in the internal 
management of the Anglican Cliurch, are indications of the 
formation of a strong party whose object was to eH'cct a re- 
action in resistance to the excessive temporal power which 
circumstances had thrown into the hands of the clergy. 
With this party, sustained by the zeal and power of John of 
Gaunt, the King's younger son, Chaucer was intimately con- 
nected by family ties. It consisted of the high nobility, and 
such of tlie middle classes as were swayed by their example 
or authority. The Crown, on the other hand, sought to 
strengthen itself by a close alliance with the heads of the 
church, especially the religious orders, from among whom its 
ministers were chosen, and through whom it wielded a 
complete control over tiie lower classes of the population. 
A reference to Richard of Devizes, Geoffrey of Vinsaul, 


Mathew Paris, and others of our old chroniclers, now within 
the reach ol'all readers, will abundantly conlirni this position 
The King's party consisted chielly of the monks, with their 
extensive granges and farms, tilled and inhabited by stout 
3'eomcn, the very pith and marrow of our militia ; and the 
friars, secure of a ready access to every cottage and conscience 
in England; both recruited from the lower and middle 
classes, and both comprising in their ranks men who, from 
their education, were skilled not only in theology, but in 
the arts of diplomacy and administration. Such was the 
only body in the state upon whose services the sovereign 
could rely as a check upon the feudal barons, whose efforts 
were, of course, always tending towards the establishment 
of a pure aristocracy. This tendency the Crown was 
obliged to counteract by playing off one great feudal vassal 
against another, and the clergy against all — a policy which, 
in the end, made the clergy hateful to all. John and 
Henry III,, indeed, attempted to play the political game of 
chess without their knights and bishops, but were check- 

The aristocratical party was naturally opposed to the 
ascendancy of the clergy, and neglected no opportunities of 
arraigning their conduct, in the hope of ultimati'ly forcing the 
Crown to select its ministers from among the feudal barons 
themselves. In these assaults upon the clergy, John of Gaunt 
and his supporters derived important assistance from Wicklifle, 
whose tenets — that tithes and episcopacy are unlawful, that 
subjects are not bound to obey princes who are living in a 
state of mortal sin, and that patrons ought to resume church 
property from clergymen whose lives or doctrines they dis- 
approve — were found to be powerful weapons in political 

Chaucer's connexion with John of Gaunt, thex'efore, explains 
much of his treatment of ecclesiastical persons in his poetry ; 
his bantering censure of the monks and friars, the most 
learned, and influential, and best organized body of churchmen, 
and, consequently, the most troublesome to his party ; and 


liis praise of the poor, and, comparatively, illiterate and 
isolated country parsons, from whom it had nothing to fear. 
Yet, notwithstanding the gusto with which he turns the 
religious orders into ridicule, there is no indication of his 
having embraced the tenets of Wickliffe. It has been * 
thought that in his character of a country parson he intended 
to record his admiration of that active reformer ; but there 
is not a single point of resemblance between them. Chaucer's 
model parson is not a controversialist; he disclaims all 
school-learning; he lives upon his benefice, and occupies 
himself with the care of his parishioners ; he does not hold 
sinecures in cathedrals ; and he delivers an orthodox discourse 
upon the sacrament of penance according to the orthodoxy of 
the times. Wickliffe's life displays a very complete contra- 
diction to all this. He was everything that the parson was 
not, and the reverse of everything that he was. He was a 
bold and indefatigable controversialist; he was Professor of 
Theology and Warden of Canterbury Hall, Oxford ; he held 
the living of Lutterworth, and a prebendal stall in the col- 
legiate church of Westbury; and he denied the sacramental 
efficacy of penance, and the expediency of confession to a 
priest. The antagonism is perfect ; and if Chaucer meant to 
apply the sketch to Wickliffe, it must have been as a masked 
sarcasm and not as a panegyric. 

The English language, like everything else at this period, 
was exhibiting signs of change. Old forms were beginning to 
be disused, and new elements to be introduced into its structure. 
The notion that Chaucer wasthefirst who adopted French forms 
and idioms is founded on a slight acquaintance with previous, 
or contemporary, literature. That the pure Saxon lingered 
for a long time among the lower orders in remote districts 
is shown by our provincial dialects of the present day, 
wiiich still retain incontestable traces of a Saxou origin ; and 
by the no less striking fact that most of our current house- 
liokl terras, and the names of most articles of utility, are 
derived from the same source, while the bulk of the class ot 
words that represent luxuries and superfluities come from the 


Norman stock. The foundations of the language, so to speak, 
are Saxon, and its graces French. In Cliaucer's time, and 
long afterwards, this distinction was much more clearly 
defined than it is now; the general diffusion of education, 
and the modern facilities of intercourse, having swept away 
the landmarks that formerly separated the different classes 
of society, and isolated the different sections of the kingdom. 
It may be said, in a broad sense, that when Chaucer wrote 
there were two languages — the language of the Court, and ot 
educated people ; and the language of the lower orders. The 
contrast between them was not that which exists between 
refinement and vulgarity, or even between knowledge and 
ignorance ; it was of a radical character, and entered into the 
formation of both. We find the two languages more or less 
influencing the English style down to the reign of Henry VIII.; 
and furnishing the key by which we can at once understand 
why contemporary writers should appear to belong to ditlerent 
ages, and why Surrey should be perfectly intelligible in our 
day, while Skelton cannot be read without the help of a 

Chaucer's language is that of the good society in which he 
lived, and into which a large accession of Norman blood, 
usages, and idioms had been infused. That in availing him- 
self of these advantages, and not atiecting the archaisms of 
the lower orders, he did wisely for his own fame, and for the 
advancement of his nativ^e language, need not be insisted 
upon. The cai-penter who should choose to do his work with 
the axe alone, when he might also have the assistance of a 
plane and saw, would not display much fitness for his voca- 

' It may be doubted,' observes Coleridge, ' whether a com- 
posite language like the English is not a happier instrument 
of expression than a homogeneous one like the German. We 
possess a wonderful richness and variety of modified mean- 
ings in our Saxon and Latin quasi-synonyraes, which the 
Germans have not. For ' the pomp axidLjJrodigality of heaven," 
the German must have said the ' spendlhriftness." The 


actual process of enricliing our language by the naturalisation 
of the Norman and the Anglo-Saxon, and the gi'adual rejec- 
tion of the original forms of both, is palpably developed in 
the writings of Chaucer, where we find the ancient inflections 
and the modern simple form frequently used indiff'erently in 
the same line. The modern word is thus at once referred to 
its French or Anglo-Saxon original by the peculiai'ities of its 
structure or pronunciation. A full exposition of the subject 
would in effect amount to the compilation of a grammar ; but 
it will be sufficient for all present purposes to remark that 
the final letter e, the doubling of consonants, and other par- 
ticulars in which the orthography differs from that of the 
present forms are by no means arbitrary, though not always 
strictly maintained, and that their omission in some cases, 
where they ought properly to be found, is to be attributed 
to the carelessness of copyists, or to the incipient use of the 
simpler forms, or to the exercise of a poetical licence for the 
sake of the metre. To these causes of confusion Chaucer 
himself adverts in the Troilus and Creseide : — 

And for there is so grcaf divcrsite 
In Enylisli, and in writing of our tongue, 
So pray I God that none miswrite thee, 
Ne thee mismetre for defaut of tongue — 

words which imply that even in his own time the metre of 
his poetry depended upon some nicety of orthography and 
pronunciation — one, amongst many reasons, why any attempt 
to substitute the modern for the ancient orthography is 
incompatible with the preservation of the metre and the 
structure of the language. A few instances will give the 
reader a general idea of the nature of these changes and 
inflections, which the smallest acquaintance with German 
will enable him to apply in almost all cases. 

To begin with substantives : they are in many instances 
inflected in the oblique case and plural number, as in 
German ; and where, in Anglo-Saxon, they ended in a, they 
end in e, pronounced ; as, for Anglo-Saxon hunta (hunter) 
Chaucer writes hunte. In the mouths of the lower charactera 


especially the Anglo-Saxon form of tlie first person singular 
is preserved ; as so the ich, sometimes written so theecli, so 
may I thrive. This is German/ T/iow takes the form of au 
affix to tlie verb, as seistow, sayest thou, canstow, canst thou. 
For it, the Anglo-Saxon form, hit, is sometimes used ; fur she 
(German, sie),scho,yi\\\ch. is the Anglo-Saxon form heo, with 
a hissing aspirate ; for her, hir, the final e of the Anglo-Saxon 
being dropped ; for their (German, ihr) hire, which comes 
nearer the Anglo-Saxon hira. The forms wha and whilic, 
for who and which (Anglo-Saxon, hwa, hwylc ; German, 
welcher), are used provincially by the Yorkshire clerks : 
swilk [so-like, Goth, siva-hikx], for such. The adjective 
appears to be sometimes inflected both in words of Anglo- 
Saxon and in those of French origin. Thus (vol, i. p. 74), 
smale is the plural form of the adjective smcd (Anglo-Saxon, 
smoil, singular ; smuJe, plural.) * 

But it is h\ the verb that the old inflections are chiefly 
preserved ; diflering, indeed, in many respects from the Anglo- 
Saxon, and being often dropped altogether, as in the modern 
forms. Thus (vol. i. p, 74), slepen is the plural of the Present 
indicative of ^0 slepen, and seeken the infinitive of the verb; but 
in three lines further on we have an approach to the modern 
form in the dropping of the final n in the word wende (old 
form wenden) ; and for to seeke (old form seeken). A re- 
markable example of this occurs where seyde rhymes to 
leyden, showing that tlie final old and new forms were some- 
times indiiforently used or omitted in writing, and were pro- 
bably much sooner dropped in speaking. The termination n 
of the plural of the Present indicative differs from the Anglo- 
Saxon, which ends in ath ; but this fonn is retained in 
some cases, as in vol. i. p. 147 ; you liketh (unless this be 
put for it you liketh), and again, ye loveth} The imperative 
always ends in eth. What is the exact force of the particle y 
prefixed to the verb seems now impossilile to discover. It is 
generally the sign of the Past participle, as from clepen, to 
call, we have yclept, called ; as in German, from loben^ to 
praise, gelobt, praised. But in German, Anglo-Saxon, and 

• See Notes, p. 70. 


in Chaucer's English, these analogous particles are prefixed 
to some verbs throughout their moods, while they evidently 
form no part of the root. Mr. Wright has noticed, as a 
caution against conjectural emendations, the errors in ortho- 
graphy into which Tyrwhitt has been betrayed by his 
ignorance of the inflections of the irregular, or, more pro- 
perly, the strong verts, in the Teutonic languages. For 
instance, in the verb to give, the imperfect singular is 1 
gaf; plural, we gave (old form gaven); in such cases, Tyr- 
whitt has invariably used the plural form with a sutject in 
the singular. It will be seen that these inflexions are iden- 
tical with the German. Geben to give, Icli gab, I gave, 
Wir gaben, we gave. The inflexion of the regiilar verb in 
the imperfect is, for example, I lernede, thou lernedest, he 
lernede. Plural, lerneden ; but the final n is often omitt«d. 
The reader will also remark the German form sch, for which 
sh has been substituted in modern English. 

The reduplication of the final consonant and the addition 
of the letter e is the adverbial form ; thus, longe or lange 
occurs as an adverb of time formed from the adjective long, 
toit/i inne, and inne, as the adverbial form of the preposition 
within and in. Needes, necessarily, and thaiilces, gratui- 
tously, are examples of the mode of forming adverbs from 

But though the foundation and construction of the lan- 
guage is purely Teutonic, it was in Chaucer's time assimi- 
lating many Anglo-Norman words. It had not yet acquired 
the strong accentuation of the modern English, which, 
Erasmus says, makes foreigners suppose when they hear us 
speak that we are barking. The modern German is accented 
much more evenly than the English ; and the genius of the 
French language is to accent all syllables equally; but if 
there be any emphasis at all it is on the last syllable. This 
rule is strictly applicable to all words of French origin in 
Chaucer. Thus, the following words, and all of like deriva- 
tion, must be pronounced as marked ; corage, viage, visage, 


manage; honour, acU'cnture, mysavcnture, armure, clamour ; 
conditioun, questloiin, reson ; manier, matier, cours^T; 
hazard, plesaunce, remembrance ; torment, &c. Tho final e 
of the feminine adjective in French is also in some cases 
retained, as Sej'nte Frideswide. 

In sliort, the construction and pronunciation of the lan- 
guages which were then undergoing the process of amalga- 
mation were still in a great measure retained; but they 
already showed symptoms of change, tliat change consisting 
chiefly in the dropping of the terminations, in accordance 
with the principle which then began to show itself in our 
idiom, of throwing back the accent as far as possible. The 
tinal syllable, when it did not form part of the root, would 
thus be at first pronounced slightly, next dropped altogether 
from pronunciation, and would finally disappear from the 
written language. Latin and Greek have undergone the very 
same process in their transformation into Italian andEomaic. 

Intimately connected with the orthography and pronuncia- 
tion is the vexed question of the rules of Chaucer's metrf . 
The two theories on this subject are thus stated by J\lr. 
Hallam : — ' It had been supposed to be proved by Tyrwhitt, 
that Chaucer's lines are to be read metrically, in ten or eleven 
syllables, like the Italian, and, as I apprehend, the French of 
his time. For this purpose it is necessary to presume that 
many terminations, now mute, were syllabically pronounced ; 
and where verses prove refractory after all our endeavour?, 
Tyrwhitt has no scruple in declaring them coi-rupt. It may 
be added that Gray, before the appearance of Tyrwhitt's 
essay on the versification of Chaucer, had adopted without 
hesitation the same hypothesis. But, according to Dr. Nott, 
the verses of Chaucer, and of all his successors down to 
Surrey, are merely rliythmical, to be read by cadence, and 
admitting of considerable variety in the number of syllables, 
though ten may be the more frequent. In the manuscripts 
of Chaucer the line is always broken by a ca-sura in the 
middle, which is pointed out by a virgule ; aud this is pre- 

E 2 


served in the early editions, down to that of 1532. They 
oome nearer, therefore, to the short Saxon line, differing 
chiefly by the alternate rhyme, which converts two verses 
into one. He maintains that a gi'eat many lines of Chaucer 
cannot he read metrically, though harmonious as verses of 
cadence. This rhythmical measure he proceeds to show in 
Occleve, Lydgate, Hawes, Barclay, Skelton, and even Wyatt, 
and thus concludes that it was first abandoned by Surrey.'' 
However ingeniously this theory may be stated, most people 
will agree with Mr. Hallam in the opinion that it is founded 
on too narrow a definition of metre. He justly observes that 
in Chaucer's versification * we never fail to recognize a uni- 
formity of measure, which the use of nearly equipollent feet 
cannot, on the strictest metrical principles, be thought to 
impair.' If an exactly equal number of syllables in every 
line be essential to metre, Homer and Virgil's hexameters and 
the song of Comus are not metrical ; a conclusion so con- 
trary to all received notions as to induce a suspicion that 
there is some fidlacy at the bottom of Dr. Nott's theory. If 
we go back to first principles, it will not be difiicult to dis- 
cover where this fallacy lies. 

The object of all metre is to produce a rhythm, or cadence, 
to which the voice in reading or singing can adapt itself 
This regular cadence may be produced by making the 
verses consist of an exactly equal number of syllables with 
the accent falling on the even ones, to which plan Dr. Nott 
would confine the term metre. But it may be much better 
produced by composing the verses of an equal number of 
equipollent, though not equisyllabic, feet, a principle upon 
which all the classical metres are founded. Nobody who can 
enjoy Milton's exquisitely musical rhythm will ever believe 
that his manner of composition was to count the syllables on 
his fingers. As Mr. Hallam well observes, the occasional 
occurrence of an anapaest in the place of an iambus, so far 
from derogating from correctness, adds great spirit and 


1 liUroduclion to the Literature of Europe, vol. i. p. 420. 


beauty to the metre. He might have included in the samt 

category a still greater irregularity, the suhstituting one 

strongly accented syllable at the beginning of a line, or at 

the cajsura, for an iambus, which, so far from being a defect, 

is an aberration that imparts wonderful spirit and beauty to 

the song of Comus~- 

The star that bids the shepherd fold 
Now the top of heaven doth hold, &c. 

lu the second of these lines the word N'ow takes the place 
of an iambus. In short, it may be laid down as a principle of 
all metres that the number of accented s^-llables in lines in- 
tended to correspond with each other admits of no irregularity; 
but that unaccented syllables may be grouped round them, as 
•t were, of course within certain limits, of which the ear is 
the best judge. This is also the principle of the Anglo- 
Saxon metres as shown by Professor Erasmus Raske in his 
valuable Anglo-Saxon Grrammar, and, it may be added, of 
all metres whatsoever, though some admit of greater variety 
in the number and arrangement of the unaccented syllables 
than others. 

It has been seen that Dr. Nott lays much stress upon a 
virgule being found in the manuscripts to mark the cajsura, 
as a proof that the verse is not metrical. But this virgule is 
a musical, and not a metrical, sign, and was intended as a 
guide to the singer to mark where the first strain of the 
recitative ended, and the next began. It was used for this 
purpose in the Latin Psalms, formerly sung in churches, and 
its place is supplied in the Book of Common Prayer by a 
colon. Its use is an interesting example of the manner in 
which poetry was formerly sung; and it signified nothing 
more. But even if it had been intended to mark the caesura, 
or pause, the regularity of its recurrence would not have 
been inconsistent with the metrical structure of the verse. 
In many classical metres, as pentameter and Sapphic, the 
place of the caesura never varies; it varies least in Pope, 
whose metre is more regular than that of any of our poets, 
and most in Milton, the melody of whose verse depends 


chiefly upon his cadence, or rhythm ; and, notwithstanding 
the virgule, many passages m.ight be quoted from Chaucer 
in which great spirit and vivacity are obtained by the 
judicious variation in the position of the csesura. 

It would carry us far beyond our pi^esent purpose to enter 
at length upon the question raised by Dr. Nott's use of the 
terms metre and rhythm, except so far as it concerns the 
verse of Chaucer. Dr. Nott's object was to prove that 
Surrey was the rirst English poet whose versification was 
governed by syllabic laws, and that the versification of all 
preceding writers was unrestrained by any syllabic laws 
whatever. This pos'tioa is perfectly clear and intelligible ; 
and constitutes, in fait, the real point at issue. But the 
subject assumes a new aspect when Dr. Nott calls the former 
species of versification metrical, and the latter rhythmical. 
The objection to his employment of these terms is, that they 
are illogical, because they do not express the essential differ- 
ence between the two species. That there is a difference is 
obvious; but these terms describe a distinction without a 
difference, unless it is to be admitted that metre can be pro- 
duced without rhytlim, or rhythm without metrical princi- 
ples of some kind. It is unnecessary to repeat, that metre 
and rhythm are by no means identical, or convertible, terms, 
and that they express different things ; but the things they 
express co-exist, and cannot be separated from each other.' 

Adopting the terms in a limited sense, metre as a test 
applicable only to syllables, and rhythm as a test applicable 
only to sounds, the question resolves itself into a simple 
form : Is Chaucer's poetry metrical or rhythmical ? The 
answer is, that it is both. We find in Chaucer not only the 
most perfect examples of strict syllal)ification, but by a care- 
ful attention to the gramtnatical structure of his language, 
we shall find that strict syllabificatiou is the rule, aud not 
the exception, of his verse. 

The regularity of the strictly syllabic lines is much 

' [At the present day Dr. Nott's theories are hardly worth detail<.Kl 
(liscassion, and are certainly not to be accepted. — W. \V. S.j 


more apparent throni):hout tlian the art with which the lines, 
not govin-ned by syllabic quantities, are made to preserve 
their true rhythmical proportions. The number of lonjj 
accented syllables in these cases is invariable ; but the 
number of unaccented syllables constantly fluctuates without 
impairing the melody oi'the verse. In other words, an anapaest, 
or other equivalent foot, often occurs, and sometimes, per- 
haps, an emphatic monosyllable takes the place of an iambus; 
and a hypcrcatalcctic, or redundant short syllable, is frequently 
found at the end of a line. 

In stating these to be the only irregularities in Chaucer's 
verse, it should be understood that he must be read like 
French or German, and the final letter e pronounced, although 
not always. The ear must here be the guide as in French 
verse. For example, in the two following lines of Boileau the 
final e is pronounced in the word fertile, but is quiescent in 
the words rare and ignore, because the succeeding word begins 
with a vowel : — 

Rare et fameux esprit, dont la fertile veine 
Ignore en ecrivaut le travail et la peine. 

But m every case, every syllable of words of French 
extraction, such as condicioun must be pronounced, and the 
accent laid on the last syllable. This is the origin of what 
has been called by modern metrists the/e;wa/e rhyme. 

The best way to make Chaucer's system of versification 
plain to the reader will be to give a few examples of his 
different mfetres, and to mark the syllables with the usual 
long and short signs. 

The heroic verse which Chaucer probably first introduced 
into English, is the prevailing one in The Canterbury Tales. 
In the spirited address of Theseus to Emily in the Knightes 
Tale, most of the peculiarities mentioned above will be found 
to occur. 

S&styr, I qttoth liE, | this Is | mjf fiil | Sssgnt, 
"WTtli all I thSvys I heer of | mj* par | IginCni. 
That gen | til Pa | lamOn, | yOur Ow | n6 knight, 
ThSt sGrv I 6th yOu | with hEr | tu, will | ind might. 


And SvSr | hath doon, | syn ferste | t^me ye | him kiir>9. 
That ye | schul of | ySur grace | upon | him rPwe, 
And take | him for | ySur hus | bSnd and | f5r lord ; 
LSne me | ySure hand, | for this | is oure | accord. 

« » « * • 

BStwix I hSm was | imaad | anon | thS bond. 
That high | tS ma | trimoyn | 8r ma | riage, 
By alle | the coun | seil of | thS ba | rSnage. 

In these lines are examples of a foot of three syllables, and 
ever, supplying the place of an iambus ; of the final e pro- 
nounced, and quiescent, as it suits the metre ; and of the word 
mariage pronounced as in French, If the following verse be 
not corrupt, which there is no reason to suppose, the word 
than, an emphatic syllable, at the beginning of a line, does 
duty for an iambus, as already noticed : — 

Than | Is It | wisdom | as thenk | Sth mg. i 

With exquisite perception of the properties of verse, the 
poet has chosen for pathetic subjects a modification of the 
Italian ottava rlma, which differs from its original in wanting 
the fifth line. In this verse are composed Griselde, The 
Legend of St. Cecilia, The Tale of the Prioress, Troilus 
and Creseide, and most of the smaller compositions called 
ballads. The following example is Constance's touching 
address to the Vii-gin, which seems to have suggested Ellen's 
prayer in The Lady of the Lake. 

MSder, | qfiod she, | Snd may | dg bright, | MSrie, 
S6th Is I tliat thurgh | wOmman | nSs eg | geraent 
Mankind | was lorn, | and damp | n5d ay | t5 dye, 
FSr which | thy child | was on ( a cross | tS-rent ; 
Thyn blis | fQl ey | ghen sawh | al this | t5rment ; 
ThSn nys | tligr noon | cSmpa | risoun j bitwene 
Thy wO, I and a | ny woo | may man | siistene. 

' [The rtmark is important, and in some instances true ; but not here. 
The right reading is— 'as it tlicnketh me'; and the Hue is i^'ilcct.— 
W. W. S.] 


The only subject for remark here is that the genitive inflec- 
tion in womannes forms a separate syUable, and that Marie 
and torment, being French words, are accented on the last 

In the envoye to the tale of Griselde is to be found a 
kind of verse which does not occur in any of the other poems. 
It consists of six heroic lines rhyming alternately, except the 
fifth, which has no corresponding rhyme. The Monke's Tale 
is written in a stanza of eight lines, of ten syllables, but very 
different from the ottava rima. The versification of the bur- 
lesque on tlie metrical romance, which the host calls 
' rhyme doggerel,' is very commonly met with in poems ol 
that period, and was probably rejected by Chaucer as mono- 
tonous and tiresome. 

It has been observed that large portions of the Tale of 
Melibeus, though written like prose, are, in fact, blank 
verse, and may be so read, as in the following example: — 

This Melibeus answered anoon anrl said, 

What man, quoth he, should of his weeping stint 

That hath so great a caus6 for to weep ? 

• • • a 

Prudence answerede, Certes well I wot 
Attempered weeping is no thing defended 
To him that sorrowful is, &c. 

This is, perhaps, the earliest example of blank verse in 
this metre in the English language; and it is not the less 
remarkable because it becomes thus resolved out of prose. 

The only remaining kind of metre that claims our atten- 
tion is that of The Romance of the Rose, The House of 
Fame, Chaucer's Dreame, and The Book of the Duchess. 
All these are in the verse called octosyllabic, but more pro- 
perly quadrameter iambic, inasmuch as anapjEsts, hypercata- 
lectic syllables, and other irregularities in the number of 
syllables are of frequent occurrence. In structure and irre- 
gularity it resembles the song of Comus. The following 
admirable delineation of the frank and simple manners ot a 
high-bred woman of fashion is taken fi'om T'he .Book qf the 


Duchess, and was intended as a portrait of Blanche, the 
consort of John of Gaunt. 

ThSreto | hSr loke | was not | Sslde, 
NS ovSr I thwart but | bSset | s5 wele. 
It drewe | and tooke | tip eve | rj^ dele 
All I that on | hSr gan | bShold, 
H5r ey | Sn semed | anon | sh6 wOld 
Have mer | cf , (Fol | ly wen | d6n sO j) 
Biit it I was nSvSr | thS ra | thSr do. 
It nas I nS coun | tSrfeit | Sd thing ; 
It was I hSr ow j n5 pure | 15king.i 

The text of Chaucer, which next claims our attention, has, 
until lately, heen considered hopelessly corrupt. His great 
popularity in some degree contributed to this result. Manu- 
script copies of his poems were eagerly multiplied in an age 
when the orthography and pronunciation of English were 
capricious and unsettled ; and each succeeding copyist thought 
himself at liberty to adapt the original to his own notions of 
correctness, or to the dialect of his native district. From 
copies made on these principles were derived the texts of the 
early editions by Caxton, in 1475, by Wynken de Worde in 
1495, by Pynson, Stowe, Thynne, and Speght, who showed, 
alike by their neglects and their errors, that they were 
utterly incapable of discriminating between a true and a 
false reading ; and the confusion arising from their incom- 
petence was worse confounded by Urry's conjectural emenda- 
tions. The next and most successful attempt to render The 
Canterbury Tales popular was made by the late Mr. 
Tyrwhitt, whose first edition appeared in 1775. His learn- 
ing, judgment, and patient research, formed a happy contrast 
to his predecessors. So far as the text was concerned, how- 
ever, his plan was injudicious. He collated a great numbei 
of MSS ., but without sufficient attention to their dates, an 

1 The text above used is taken from one of the printed editions, aiid 
is probably very incorrect. 


iadispensable consideration in reference to the language of 
Chaucer. He appears, also, to have attributed to the early 
editions by Caxton a degree of authority to which they have 
no title.' In other respects his labours were of unquestion- 
able utility. He rejected ignorant interpolations, made an 
excellent arrangement of the Tales, and in his Dissertation 
and Notes, notwithstanding that tliey were founded on an 
impure text, and an imperfect knowledge of the Anglo- 
Saxon and Mediaeval English, he produced a body of illustra- 

' Caxton's first edition of The Canterbury Tales was one of the 
earliest books printed in England. As a specimen of typography 't 
is remarkable for clearness and elegance ; but the text is valueles<, 
being taken from a MS. abounding in errors. Caxton afterwards 
brought out a second edition printed from a better JIS. in the 
possession of Jlr. William Thynne. Neither of these editions are 
dated. The first is supposed by Ames to have been printed about 
1475 or 1476; the second appears from the preface to have been 
undertaken six years later. Of the former, only two copies are 
known to exist ; and only one of the latter. Troilus and Creseide, 
The Book 0/ Fame, and other pieces were also printed by Caxton. In 
i4y5, Wynken de Worde printed an edition of the Tale^, founded 
upon Caxton; the Troilus and Creseide in i5'7; and the Asaeniblee of 
Foules iu 1530. Richard Pynson published two editions of the Tb/ex, 
the first without a date (conjectured to be 1491), and tlie second, 
containing additional pieces, in i5i6. He also printed the Troilus 
and Creseide, and The Book of Fame. The next edition, collected by 
Mr. William Thynne, and published by Godfray in i53j, w'as the first 
that contained the entire works, with the exception of The Plowman's 
Tale, and was adopted as the basis of most of the subsequent editions. 
It was reprinted, with the addition of The Plowman's Tale, by John 
Reynes, in 1542. This was followed, in iS6i,by an edition, 'with 
divers addicions,' edited by Stowe. Speght's edition, the most com- 
plete that had appeared up to this time, was published in i598, and 
reprinted, enlarged and improved, in i6oj, and again in i687- Urry's 
edition appeared in i^zi. The Canterbury Tales, 'from the most 
authentic MSS., and as they are turned into English by the most 
eminent hands, &c.,' were published in 1740, by Dr. Thomas Morell. 
This is the edition to which Jlr. Tyrwhitt gives the date of 1737, and 
of which he availed himself largely in liis notes and glossary. Mr. 
Tyrwhitt's edition was published in 1775-8. A second edition was 
printed by the University of Oxford in 1798 ; a third in London in 
iSzt ; and a fourth in 1S4S. with a new life by Sir Harris Nicolas, 
who also edited the rest of the poems. Mr. Wright's edition was 
originally printed by the Percy Society in 1847; and afterwards re- 
published for general circulation. This catalogue includes only tlie 
principal editions. Jlany other editions appeared iu the sixteenth 
century, but they are for the most part mere reprints. 


tive information which must always be valuable to the 

Mr. Wright, applying the vastly increased resources ot 
modem criticism and philology to the text of The Canterbury 
Tales, has made an important advance in this fundamental 
particular beyond his predecessors. His plan was exactly the 
reverse of Tyrwhitt's. Instead of founding his text upon a 
comparison of MSS. written at different times, and in diiferent 
places, and frequently corrupted by different dialects, he 
selected the best manuscript he could find, that which 
seemed nearest to Chaucer's own time, and most free from 
clerical errors, and adopted it as the basis of his edition. 
This MS., a remarkably line one in the British Museum, he 
thus describes : * The Harleian MS., No. 7334, is by far the 
best MS. of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales I have yet exa- 
mined, in regard both to antiquity and correctness. The 
hand writing is one which would at first sight be taken by 
an experienced scholar for that of the latter part of the four- 
teenth century, and it must have been written within a few 
years after 1400, and, therefore, soon after Chav;cer's death. 
The language has very little, if any, appearance of local 
dialect, and the text is in general extremely good, the varia- 
tions from Tyrwhitt being usually for the better.* 

It is proper to observe that, although the Harl. MS. has 
been adopted as the basis of this text, it has not been implicitly 
followed in all cases. As Mr. Wright found it necessary to 
depart occasionally from his original, so, in some instances, 
the reading of Mr. Tyrwhitt, when it bore internal evidence 
of authenticity, has been preferred in this edition. A few 
cases also occur in which the reading of the MS. has been 
restored, when it was thought that Mr. Wright had rejected 
it without sufficient reason ; but all deviations, either from 

1 [The Harleian MS. is very vahiable, but tlie Ellesmere 5IS. is now seen 
to have tlie hislii'st claim to corr.ctncss. 'I'lie readings of that MS. are 
mostly to be Ibuiid in Tyruliitt's edition, but be does not seem to have 
always tollowed it. The te.\t of the Harleian MS. was certainly worth 
priiitinjr, and gives a very lair result. 

It iini't be reiiieinbered that tli(( publications of the 'Chaucer Society' 
have lately cleared up many doubtful points.— W.W. S.] 


Mr. Wright's edition, or from the original MS., are pointed 
out in the foot-notes for the ultiniiite satisfaction of the 
reader. Fortunately the text of The Canterbury Tales is 
now so correct as to afford little room for such conjectural 
emendations as still continue to be applied to the text of 
Shakespeare ; and there can be no hesitation in asserting that 
a reader of ordinary education, particularly if he have any 
knowledge of French and German, and will take the trouble 
to read the first ten pages with a glossary by his side, may 
be able, without difficulty, to understand and enjoy the whole 
of Chaucer's poems. 

In the notes compiled for this edition free use has been 
made of the labours of former commentators, their authority 
being invariably acknowledged, either by a reference, or by 
initials where a quotation is given in full. Thus, passages 
extracted from the annotations or criticisms of Speght, Tyr- 
whitt, or Wright, are distinguished by having affixed to them 
the letters S., T., or W. Sometimes a difference of opinion 
has arisen, and, whenever it was considered of sufficient im- 
portance, the grounds of dissent are stated. 

In addition to the tracks of inquiry previously explored, 
others have been opened up of interest and utility to the 
general reader. Much attention, for example, has been 
bestowed upon the elucidation of involved passages by un- 
ravelling their construction, and by pointing out the full 
force of still existing words which Chaucer has used in an 
obsolete sense, but which do not come within the scope of a 
glossary. Beliefs, usages, and principles alluded to in the 
text, which have now either wholly disappeared, or which yet 
linger in remote places, or survive unnoticed in modem cere- 
monies and manners, are explained ; and in developing their 
sources numerous illustrations are drawn from our old 
metrical romances, ballads, chronicles, and local histories. 
But, perhaps, the most striking and neglected feature of 
Chaucer's great poem is to be found in its frequent allusions 
to the practical theology and ecclesiastical customs of the 
mediiEvaJ Chui-ch of England. This part of the subject has 


been hiiherto entirely passed over, or, at best, only super- 
ficially noticed. The deficiency is to some extent supplied 
by the observations on ecclesiastical affairs introduced into 
the notes, supported in all instances by direct recurrence to 
the formularies and books of established authority. The 
customs of the mediaeval Church have been traced, wherever 
it was possible, to their origin in Scripture, or to the tra- 
ditions of the early church, and occasionally compared, for 
the sake of illustration, with the practices of our own day. 
The numerous references to Scripture have also been verified. 
Such side-lights as these thrown in upon the text are need- 
less to the scholar ; but they will be of some value to the 
reader who now takes up the book for the first time, by 
enabling him the more easily to understand the poet's mean- 
ing, and to realize the state of society he describes. 

The paramount aim throughout has been to render this 
edition popular in a legitimate sense. Nor have any of the 
projects, or experiments, which have been suggested fi-om 
time to time to facilitate the convenience of the general 
reader, been overlooked. Amongst these, the modernization 
of Chaucer's orthogi-aphy — so frequently insisted upon as the 
only means of bringing him within the comprehension of the 
great bulk of the reading classes — has received due conside- 
ration. The earliest attempt of this nature was made by 
Dryden, whose example was followed, in a similar spirit, by 
Pope. How far their versions of Chaucer can be said to 
exhibit a just reflection of the original it is unnecessary to 
inquire. They are, in fact, very elaborate paraphrases, in 
wliich the idiomatic forms and colours of the old writer 
vanish in the process of adaptation ; and they bear no closer 
resemblance, in spirit or expression, to Chaucer than Pope's 
translation bears to Homer. The Fables of Dryden are as 
well known to the mass of the public as any poems in the 
language ; but it may be doubted whether they have increased 
the desire for a more intimate acquaintance with Chaucer, or 
contributed to the extension of his fame. On the contrary', 
they have h-ilped rather to obstruct his popularity, by encou- 


raging the notion that he must be in^^crpolated, expanded, 
and purified to suit the modern taste, and that if he is to be 
read at all, it must be through the medium of an interpreter. 
A still more ambitious efibrt to modernize Chaucer was 
made in 1740, when the whole of The Canterbury Tales 
were, to use the phraseology of the authors, 'turned into 
modern language,' and printed on opposite pages to the 
original. This was at least submitting the venture to an 
honest ordeal, by furnishing the reader with the means of 
judging for himself between the poet and his expositors. 
The decision of the reader may be inferred from the oblivion 
into which the labours of these gentlemen have fallen. Their 
failure, however, should not be exclusively ascribed to the 
hopelessness of the task; but rather to their deficienej' 
in the requisites indispensable to the adequate discharge of 
the function they assumed. They do not appear to have 
thormighly understood their author ; tliey not only suffered a 
multitude of his characteristic touches to escape, but in a still 
greater number of instances substituted traits of their own ; 
they embroidered his antiquity with modern tinsel ; they 
sometimes even exchanged his costume for the last new 
fashion ; and throwing into utter confusion the chronology of 
manners, they transposed the knights and city madams of the 
fourteenth century into the fine gentlemen and ostentatious 
ladies of their own time. It does not necessarily follow that 
all attempts to modernize Chaucer should be disfigured by 
similar deviations ; or that it is impracticable to present a tran- 
script of him that should be more faithful in its details ; but 
the temptations to wander from the text are so irresistible, 
and the difficulties in the way of achieving a literal version 
are so insuperable, that we must not be surprised to find that 
writers whose qualifications justified the highest hopes ol suc- 
cess should also have failed in the attempt. The last experi- 
ment of this kind was made a few years ago, when a small 
volume appeared containing a selection from Chaucer's poems, 
converted into modern English by Wordsworth, Leigh Hunt, 
and others. The contributors to this volume do not seem to 


have proceeded upon any uniform or settled principle, but to 
have acted independently, each pursuing the plan suggested 
by his own judgment; the whole, however, being governed 
by a general intention to keep as close as possible to the text. 
If there was here too wide a discretion left open to individual 
taste, the variety it produced was not without a corresponding 
advantage. It served to show the different latitudes which 
competent scholars, and acknowledged masters of the art of 
versification, considered themselves justified in indulging, and 
to what extent they thought they might depart even from the 
language of the original in the laudable desire of making its 
substance more widely known. The result was satisfactory 
in this respect, that it may be said to have finally determined 
all doubts on the subject. Some of these versions are distin- 
guished by as much fidelity as it is, perhaps, possible to attain 
in the transfusion of an ancient author into modern language; 
and are otherwise admirable specimens of skilful treatment. 
But they are, nevertheless, as unlike Chaucer as they are 
unlike each other. In proportion as they preserve strictly 
liis exact phraseology, they become formal and cumbrous ; for 
that which is perfectly easy and natural in its antique garb 
and associations, acquires an obsolete and heavy air when it 
is transplanted amongst more familiar forms. When they 
deviate, on the other hand, which the necessities of structure 
and metre frequently render unavoidable, it is always at a 
loss of some subtle trait of expression, or some complexional 
peculiarity essential to the truthful presentation of the ori- 
ginal. Between the new and the old styles which, notwith- 
standing the utmost care, thus become insensibly mingled, 
tlie spirit of Chaucer escapes, and nothing remains, so to 
speak, but the letter of his work. We are further warned in 
the best of these versions of another danger inseparable from 
all such experiments. The special manner of the modern 
versifier may be traced visibly in each. It would be vmrea- 
sonable to expect that a translator who is himself a poet 
should not sometimes relapse, either unconsciously or by 
design, into his own habits of thought and modes of expres- 


sion ; and, accord in <;ly, tlie reader who should take up these 
poems ignorant of the source from whence they were derived, 
would have no difficulty in detecting the marks by which the 
hand of each translator may be identified and distinguished 
from the rest. We cannot have more conclusive examples of 
the inutility of attempting to exhibit Chaucer in a modern 
costume ; and, whatever other means may be devised for the 
removal of difficulties, the hope of rendering him successfully 
into the language of our day must be abandoned. 

Since the publication of these pieces no further efforts have 
been made in this way. In 1846, Leigh Hunt published 
some selections from the poems of Chaucer, with a running 
prose version to assist the reader.' The design was inse- 
nious, and less obnoxious to a certain class of objections than 
the metrical form. It may be doubted, however, whether the 
most accurate execution of such a design would materially 
advance the reader in his knowledge of Chaucer. He would 
find old forms of expression accommodated to modern forms, 
and if he wished to comprehend his author, he would be 
compelled to weigh their separate value and contrast theii- 
force. He would find some phrases not represented at all ; 
others partially resolved; and not a few inevitably para- 
phrased. The massive features of the original would be 
gradually frittered away by the process of examination and 
comparison in detail he would be compelled to pursue ; while 
the facility afforded to him of summarizing the general 
meaning would produce an indifference to the study of those 
minute features in which so much of its peculiar interest 
consists. In a book of selections, especially with the fine 
sympathies and critical faculty of Leigh Hunt presiding over 
its pages, a prose 7ersion running at the foot of the text may do 
something towards the extension of a taste for Chaucer : but 
it would manifestly be out of place in an edition of Chaucer's 
works, where everything that could be done by such a version 
can be much more effectively done by explanatory notes. 

1 Wit a7id Humour; selected from the English PoeU. 1846. 
VOL. I. J. 


The conclusion to which we are led by this review of the 
means that have been hitherto taken to popularize Chaucer, 
is that, since he cannot be appreciated in the language of 
others, he must be read in his own. 

But, trusting still to the language o( Chaucer, it has 
frequently been urged that there remains an expedient by 
which it could be rendered more intelligible to the general 
reader, without derogating from its integrity. This expe- 
dient is to modernize the orthography — apparently a simple 
proceeding. In the preparation of the present edition this 
suggestion has been maturely considered, and deliberately 
rejected for the following reasons. In the fii'st place, it was 
found that the reduplication of consonants, the employment 
of the final e, and other peculiarities which appear to be 
mere fancies of the scribe, or obsolete usages of the printer, 
are in fact grammatical inflections of great beauty and im- 
portance. In the second place, these peculiarities, besides 
being indispensable to grammatical accuracy, constitute the 
key to the metrical structure of the verse, and must be 
retained in innumerable instances for the preservation of the 
metre. To attempt a selection of those which it is indis- 
pensable to retain, and others which might be rejected with- 
out injury to the metre, would be attended with serious 
hazard ; nor could such an experiment, with our present 
knowledge of mediaeval English, be conducted upon any fixed 
or rational principles. It would throw open an inexhaustible 
source of discussion, and render the piebald text utterly 
valueless to the scholar, without bringing it a step nearer to 
the comprehension of the general reader, who would, pro- 
bably, be more perplexed by its inconsistencies than by the 
comparatively uniform antiquity of the original. The labour 
of such an undertaking would involve the absolute necessity 
of investigating, and in a multitude of cases, of reconstruct- 
ing the grammar and metre of every line separately ; and in 
the end, presuming this labour to be satisfactorily accom- 
plished, the text would not be Chaucer, but a version of 
Chaucer. The advocates cf a modernized orthography have 


not sufficiently weighed these objections, and have, probably, 
founded their opinion of its practicability upon the examples 
of modernization which have been etl'ected amongst the poets 
of the Tudor and Stuart periods. But it should be remem- 
bered, that those poets do not come within the same category 
as a poet of the fourteenth century. In their time the old 
grammatical inflections had been superseded by the modern 
construction, and the peculiarities of their spelling in no way 
affected the metre, and did not require to be retained for any 
other reason. 

A critic, whose judgment on such questions may be 
appealed to with confidence, was of opinion that Chaucer's lan- 
•guage and metre could be made easy to the million without 
tampering with its forms. ' I cannot in the least allow,' he 
said, ' any necessity for Chaucer's poetry, especially T/ie 
Canterbury Tales, being considered obsolete. Let a plain 
rule be given for sounding the final e of syllables, and for 
expressing the terminations of such words as ocean, nation, 
&c., as dissyllables ; or let the syllables to be sounded in 
such cases be marked by a competent metrist. This simple 
expedient would, with a very few trifling exceptions where 
the errors are inveterate, enable any reader to feel the perfect 
smoothness and harmony of Chaucer's verse.'* The first of 
these suggestions fully recognizes the propriety of giving 
Chaucer in his own language. The second proposes a 
means for facilitating the reader's enjoyment of his metre. 
This latter proposal, which exhausts all the schemes that 
liave been thought of for popularizing our great poet, is open 
to some obvious objections. 

It may be conceded at once that the accentuation of the 
text would be useful to the reader, if the terribly complicated 
appearance it would impart to the verse did not deter him 
altogether from its perusal — which such a mass of syllabic 
guides would be very likely to do. In order to carry out a 
thoroughly effective system of accents, it would be necessary 

' CoLZRWOE..— ruble Tidk. 

F 2 


to employ two or thi-ee distinctive signs ; and the unavoid- 
able freqricncy of their recurrence, and the obligation thus 
created of scanning the lines, would so sensibly interrupt the 
pleasure of the reader, that, it may be taken for granted, a 
book scaiTed over by such scholastic marks would never find 
its way into general circulation. But there are other 
objections of a more important kind. For the purpose of 
testing the experiment practically, the whole of The CanteV' 
bury Tales were accented in the first instance for this edition ; 
and it was not till the labour had been completed that the 
design of printing them in that manner was relinquished. 
The necessity these accents imposed, in a vast number 
of instances, of deciding doubtful questions affecting the 
resolution of quantities, and the differences of opinion they 
would inevitably generate on points for which no arbitrary' 
laws can possibly be laid down, determined their final 
rejection. It was thought better to supply the reader with 
a few plain rules for pronunciation, which should embrace 
the principal structural peculiarities, leaving him to apply 
them for himself. 

The following specimens may be taken as a sample of the 
results which might be expected from the adoption of a 
modernized orthography, with accented syllables. It should 
be observed, that the signs here used are those employed to 
mark the prosodial value of syllables in Latin and Greek, 
and that they are introduced merely to express the analogous 
and not the identical value in English verse. Accents 
of a different kind would be necessary for an edition of 


Why schuld I nought as wel telle you alle 
The portraiture, that was upon the walle 
Within the temple of mighty JIars the reede ? 
Al peyntcd was the wal in length and breede 
Like to the estres of that grisly place, 
That liight the gret tenipul of Mars in Thrace, 
In that colde and frosty regioun 
Ther as Mars hath his sovereyn mancioun. 

Ferst on tlie wal was peynted a foreste 
III which ther dwelled neyluer man uor beste. 


With knotty, knarry barcyn trees olde 
01 stubbes sclinriie and hirtous to bylioWe; 
In which ther ran a swynibul in a swough, 
As it were n stornie schiild l)erst' every bough; 
And downward on an liil uiidi r a bent, 
Ther stood the teinpul of Mars armypoteiit. 

Why sliOuld I not as well telle you all 
The pOrtriiiture that was QpOn the wall, 
Within the temple 6f mighty Mars thS rEede?* 
All painted was thS wall In length and breede? 
LTlce to thg estrEs of that grisly place, 
That hight thS great temple 5f Mars in Thrace, 
In that cClde &nd frosty rSgion, 
Th6re as MJirs hath his sov'rEign mansion. 
First, on thS wall wSs painted a foic-ste. 
In which thSre dwelled neithgr man nOr bEast, 
With knotty, knarry, barren trCCs old, 
With stubbCs sharp and hide5us to beliOld ; 
In which there ran i swimblC in a swough 
As 'twere S stOrm shSuld bOrstg every bough ; 
And downward on an hill iinder S bent, 
ThSre stood the tempi' 6f Mars ilrmipolent. 

Whether the modernized version is preferable to the 
original must be left to the reader'.s judgment. 

The Canterbury Tales have always occupied the first 
plnce in the order of Chaucer's poems ; and that arrange- 
ment, which there is no suilicient reason for disturbing, has 
been followed in this edition. There can be little doubt, 
however, from allusions they contain to events that occurred 
in 1386, and to the Con/tssio Amantis, written in 1392-3, 

1 There should, porhaps, be a final e to herst ; it was probably elided by 
the scribe, ;ui reiiiarl-cl by Mr. Wright, in his introduction, before 'every.' 
[The correct reading i^ given by the ElUwinere .MS. (and four others) "As 
though a Sturm shouM brcsteii every Ixjugh.'— W. \V. S.] 

-' Thi-i liiiglit to have IxM-n changed into ri'd, but then breciU must have 
been changinl into brnl, which would not have e.\pre.<.sed the ineaning. 
This is another e.xainple of a difficulty whicli, by this time, the reader wiJl 
l)eiceive is insurmountable. 


that in some of these tales we have the last productions of 
Chaucer's genius. Mr. Wright conjectures, iVom the unfinished 
state of the work, and the variations of the different MSS., 
that they were not composed continuously, hut in detached 
portions, to he afterwards joined together. The original 
plan, as indicated by the Prologue, was evidently intended to 
include the proceedings of the pilgrims at Canterbury and 
their journey back to London, during which each of them 
was to relate a second story, the whole winding up with a 
supper and an Epilogue. Of this considerable design 
scarcely the first half was accomplished; and even that division 
was left incomplete, connecting links being wanted in 
several places. Chaucer appears to have carried out his 
purpose consecutively only so fer as the opening of The 
Cook's Tale, up to which all the MSS. correspond in the 
order of the tales. From that point their divergence is not 
more remarkable than their final agreement, the tales of The 
Maniple and The Parsoji in all instances terminating the 


[P. 49. The form ich is not German, but the Norman-French pronuncia- 
tion ot the A.-S. ic. Tlie ch is French, not Uke the German guttural sountl. 

Swill- (i.e., so-like) is of coui-se not a derivative from whilk, which stands 
lor ichn-Hke (Goth. Inva-leiks). 

That the term you liketh stands for ' it pleases j-ou ' is of course the correct 
interpretation. For full information on Chaucer's prammatieal forms see 
the 'Selections from Chaucer' in tlie Clarendon I'ress Series, where the 
prosody and scansion are also fully discussed.— \V. W. S.] 







f Ije CanttrbitriT %'dts. 


WHAN that Aprille -with his schowrcs swoote' 
The drought of Marche hath perced to the route, 

' A metrical analysis of the first few lines of tlie Prologue, in wliich 
examples of most of the peculiarities of inflexion and accentuation 
alluded to in the introduction occur, will, it is hoped, enable the reader 
to conquer any ditBculties of this nature that may present themselves 
in the verse. The principles here indicated will be found applicable 
throughout the poem. This is Tyrwliitt'a plan ; but it will be seen 
that, as the text is different from liis, so also is the metre. The marks 
of long and sJiort, properly applied to the classical metres only, are 
here used as being plainer than an accent on the accented syllables : — 

' "WhSn that | April | 15 with | his 8ch5w | rCs swoote 
The drought | of Milrche | hath per | ced to | the roote, 
And ba | thiid 6ve | ry vC-yne | in swich | licour, 
Of which I v£rtue | 6ngen | drSd ia ( thg flour ; 
Whiln Ze | phJrQa | 6ek with | his swG | tu breeth 
Enspi I riid hiitli | lu eve | rjf holte | and heeth 
The ten | drg crop j pes, ilud j th6 yoa | gg sonne 
Bath In | thS Kam | liis hal | fe cours | i-rOnnc, 
And sma | le f5w | ISs ma | kSn mG | 15die, 
That sle I pen al | the night | with 5 | p6n yhe, 
S5 prik I eth Iiein | nilture | in here | coriiges : — 
Th^nne 15n | gSn fdlk | tS gOn | 5n pil | grimages, &o * 
Here the final e in Aprille, swete, hdje, yonge, smaleis pronounced ; bo' 


And Lathud every veyne in swich licour, 

Of which vertvie^ engendred is the flour; 

Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth — - -6' 

Enspirud hath in every holte and heeth 

The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne* 

Hath in the Ram' his halfe cours i-ronne, 

And smale fowles maken melodie, 

That slepen al the night with open yhe, — fo 

So priketh* hem nature in here corages: — 

Thanne longen folk to gon on pilgrimages, 

it is quiescent in Marche, veyne, nature, because in these cases it is fol- 
lowed by a word bcirinning with a vowel, or with the letter h. This 
is the rule of French poetry. The final es is pronounced in croppes, 
fowles, as in German. The French words licour, nature, corages are 
accented on the last syllable of tlie root, as in French. The reader 
will also remark the old forms of hem and here, for tliem and their ; 
and slepen, malcen, the Anglo-Saxon inflexion of the infinitive and 
plural verb : i-ronne is also the pret. part, of rennen, to run, as in 
German, gelobt, from lobcn. 

1 Vertue here signifies power. The meaning is, when April has 
bathed every vein of the earth in that moisture which, by its genial 
power, produces the blossom. 

' Where now the vital energy that moved, 
While summer was, the pure and subtle lymph 
Through the imperceptible meandering veins 
Of leaf and flower ? It sleeps ; and the icy touch 
Of unprolific winter has impressed 
A cold stagnation on the intestine tide.* 

COWPER. — Task. Winter Walk at Koon. 

2 The sun is said to be young, as having only just entered upon his 
annual progress through the signs of the Zodiac. 

'•'■ For Ram, Tyrwhitt proposes to read BnU, because in April the 
sun has entered the sign of Taurus. The study of astronomy was in- 
troduced into Europe in the middle ages by the Arabs. [The reading Ram 
is right. The sun, iluiing April, ran a half-course in the IJain, and a halt- 
course in the IJull, because it entered Taurus about the viiddle of the month. 
Cliaucer means that it was past tlie middle of the montli. It was, ui fact, 
April tlie i6th. 15y tlie time the JIan of La we told his tale it was April the 
l8th, as Chaucer tells us. See Scheme, vol. ii. pp. i5i-J54.— W. W.S.] 

•> So nature spurs or excites them in their passions. Courage means 
generally impulse, desire, as 'devout courage,' further ou, impulse ol 


And palmers' for to seeken straunge strondes, 

To ferne^ lialwes, kouthe in sondry londes; 

And sjieciully, from every scliires ende _ /tr 

Of Engelond, to Canturbury they wende, 

Tlie holy blisful martir' for to seeke, 

That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.' 

' Spcght m.ikes the distinction between palmers and pilgrims to 
consist in the former never ceasing to go from shrine to shrine, while 
tile latter are undor a vow only to perform one specified pilgrimage. 
Ill this fanciful interpretation he is followed by Sir Walter Scott. It 
is obvious that palmer means one who has made a pilgrimage to the 
Holy Land, and brought home a palm-branch as a token, just as the 
pilgrims to Saint James of Composiella used to bring home a cockle- 
shell. Thus Chaucer makes the palmers long to seek strange, i. c, 
foreign strands. 

- Sjieght and Tyrwhitt for ferno, read serve. The reading in the 
te.\t has been restored by Mr. Wright from the Hari. MS., and means 
dhtant, from /, r far. Halwo,-, meaning saints, is still retained in the 
Scottish Hallowe'en, the Eve of All Hallows, or All Saints. In the 
Lord's Prayer, ' Hallowed be thy name !' is the translation of mndiji- 
cetiir nonun tiuim. Koutlie, known, from kennen, to know, survives in 
our uncouth, unknown, strange. 

^ Thomas a Uecket, the Chancellor of Henry II. The King raised 
him to the see of Canterbury in the hope that he would a 
willing instrument ill establishing the Xorman dynasty and oppressing 
the Sa.xcns; but tinding, on the contrary, that he strenuously defended 
♦,he rights of the church and of the conquered and oppressed people, 
he employed three of his retainers to murder him while he was saying 
mass in his cathedral. 15ecket was soon afterwards canonized, and 
his remains, which were preserved at Canterbury, became an object of 
pilgrimage. Ixl. Slacaulay says, ' It was a national as well as a reli- 
gious feeling that drew great multitudes to tlie shrine of Bccket, the 
first Englishman who, since the Conquest, had been terrible to the 
foreign tyrants.' — HM. Eng., vol. i, 

■* Who had helped them by his prayers, and been thus instrumental 
to their recovery. In the middle ages it was usual, in sickness or 
peril, to vow a pilgrimage to the shrine of a saint, and if the person 
was restored to health or escaped the danger, the happy issue was 
ascribed to the prayers of the saint, whose shrine was heaped with 
rich olferings in acknowledgment. Erasmus, in his Pereyrinatio 
reli/jionis ergo, alludes to numbers of arms and legs hung up in the 
shrine of Saint Thomas in gratitude for the cures ellected in the-.- 
p.irticular limbs by his prayers. Similar menvrials may still be si-.u 
in churches on the cmtineiit. .Saint Louis vowed his lirst criisa.i,- 
or pilgrimage to Jerusalem when he was so ill as to be thouglit p:i>t 
recovery; and on his return, when he and the Queen were in dan-, r 


Byfel that, in that sesoun on a day, 
In Southwerk at the Tabbard* as I lay, - zx> 

Redy to wend en on my pilgrimage 
To Canturbury with ful devout corage, 
At night was come into that hostelrie 
Wei nyne and twenty in a companye. 
Of sondry folk, by aventure i-falle ^»' 

In felawschipe, and pilgryms were thei alle, 
That toward Canturbury wolden ryde. 
The chambres and the stables weren wyde, 
And wel we weren esud^ atte beste. 
And schortly, whan the sonne was* to reste, 3o 

So hadde I spoken with hem everychon, 
That I was of here felawschipe anon, 
And made forward* erly to aryse, 
To take oure weye ther as I yow devyse.' 
But natheles, whiles I have tyme and space, 3-3' 

Or that I ferthere in this tale pace. 
Me thinketh it acordant to resoun, 
To telle yow alle the condicioun 

of shipwreck, Lord tie Joinville tells us that she came into his cabin in 
great distress, and that he said to her, ' Madame, vow to make a 
pilgrimage to my Lord Saint Nicholas, at Varengeville, and I promise 
you that God will restore us in safety to France.' — Memoirs of Saint 
Louis. Part II. 

' A sleeveless coat worn in times past by noblemen in the wars, but 
now only by heralds, and is called their ' coat of arms in service.' It 
is the sign of an inn in Southwark by London, within the which was 
the lodging of the Abbot of Hyde by Winchester. — S. 

The Tabard is now the Talbot Inn in the High-street, Borough. 
The sign was changed in 16/6. An inscription was afterwards set up 
to indicate the house: ' This is tlie inne where Sir Jeffry Chaucer 
and the nine and twenty pilgrims lay in their journey to Canterbury, 
anno i 38 3.' No part of the existing inn is of the age of Cliaucer. In 
.Speght's time it was ' newly repaired, with convenient rooms much 
increased, for tlio receipt of many guests.' [The Tabard inn is no longer in 
e.-vi.stence, but was only lately )ju1Um1 iluwn.— W. W. S.] 

-' Accoiiiniodated in the bc^t nuiinier. ' Kasement' is Still used in law- 
conveyances vvitli the meaning of accouuuodatiou. 

3 To rest, i.e., at rest, in a state of rest ; a pure Anglo-Saxon form. 

* Made agreement beforehand. 

s To that place that I tell you of, scil., Canterbury. 

THE rnoLOGUE. 77 

Of eche of hem, so as it semed me, 

And which they wcren, and of what degre ; ^o 

And eek in what array that they were inner 

And at a kuight than wol I first bygynne. 

A Kni(;ht' ther was, and that a worthy man. 
That fx-oni the tyme tliat lio first bigau 
To ryden out, he lovede chyvalrye, t^y 

Trouthe and honour, fredoni and curtesie. 
Ful worthi was he in his lordes werre, 
And thereto hadde he riden, noman ferre,* 
As wel in Cristendom as in hethenesse, 
And evere lionoured for his worthinesse. 5"c> 

At Alisandre' he was whan it was woune, 
Ful ofte tyme he hadde the bord bygonne* 

• In the middle ages, before the system of standing armies was intro- 
duced, tlie military force of the kingdom consisted of the barons, who, 
according to the feudal tenure, were obliged to supply, for their sove- 
reign's wars, a certain number of knights, who were again obliged to 
bring into the field a contingent of inferior men-at-arms and yeomen, 
in proportion to the amount of their landed property. After tlie cam- 
paign was over, tliis militia returned to their former occupation ; and a 
soldier by profession was obliged to seek employment and a liveUhood, 
by serving under diflerent captains in all parts of the world. The 
knight is here said to have ridden 'in his lorde's werre," that is, to have 
served under his feudal superior, abroad and at home. It might at first 
seem as if his torde'x werre meant the crusade ; but he is said to have 
served, not only in heathenesse, but in Cliristendom. Tyrwhitt supposes 
that the achievements of Chaucer's kniglit were suggested by those ot 
a contemporary, ' le noble et vaillant Clievaler, JIathew de Gourney,' 
whose epitaph is given in Lcland's Itin. v. iii. p. 91. ' qui en sa vie fu en 
la bataille de Benamaryn, et alia apres ii la siege d'Algezir sur les 
Saraziues, et aussi a la bataille de I'Escluse, de Cressy, de Deyngenesse, 
de Peyteres, de Nazare, d'Ozrey, et a plusieurs autres batailles et 
atseges, en les quex il gagna noblement grant los et honour." 

' Ferre is the comparative of fer, far — superlative, /er?-es<. 
3 Alexandria, in Egypt, was won, and immediately afterwards aban- 
"doned, in i 365, by llerre de I.usignan, King of Cyprus. — T. 

* This knight, being often among the knights of the Dutch order, 
called Ordo Teutonicus, in Prussia, was, for his worthiness, placed by 
them at the table before any of what nation soever. — S. In other senses, 
bord or bourd means play, often used for fight or battle. Thus 2 .Sum., 
ii. 14, Abner says, 'Let the young men arise and /)/<7y before us," meaning 
fight ; at Hampton-court, the ' toy' means the tilting-ground, and sword- 
play is a common expression. The meaning of the passage no doubt 
u, that thii knight occupied the highest place at the table, aud when 


Aboven alle naciouns in Pruce. 

In Lettowe' hadde reyced and in Euce, 

No cristen man so ofte of his degre. 6'(>' 

In Gernade atte siege hadde lie be 

Of Algesir,^ and riden in Belmarie.* 

At Lieys was he, and at Satalie,^ 

Whan they were wonne ; and in the Greete ' see 

At many a noble arive° hadde he be. i>o 

At mortal batailles hadde he ben fitene, 

And foughten for our feith at Tramassene 

In lystes thries, and ay slayn his foo. 

This ilke worthi knight hadde ben also 

Somtyme with the lord of Palatye/ C^ 

Ageyn another hethene in Turkye : 

the cup went round, which was done ceremoniously, he was served fiist, 
and, therefore, began before all other nations, that is, natives of the several 
states of Germany, who composed the Teutonic order, or who were tiglitiiig 
against the infidels in Prussia. The Teutonic order, like the Templars 
and Knights of St. John, was originally founded to fight against the 
Saracens in Palestine; but 'finding,' as Fuller remarks, 'that by the 
course of tlie cards tliey must rise losers if they continued the war in 
the holy land, Hermannus de Saltza, then fourth Grand Master, came, 
in iz 39, into Prussia, converted the half-heathenpeopleof that country, 
and defended that fror.ticr of Christendom against the heathen Tartars. 
Albert of Brandenburg was the last Grand Master. He broke the 
vow of his order, losing his virginitie to keep his chastity, and married 
Dorothea, daughter of the Duke of Denmark.' — Fui-lek's Holy irar, 
book V. c. 14. In him originated the royal house of Brandenburg, of 
which the present King of Prussia is the head. 

1 Lithuania and Uussia were not thoroughly converted to Chris- 
tianity till the 1 3th century, and were continually at war with the 
frontier countries of Christendom. 

- The city of Algczir was taken from the Moorish King of Granadu 
in 1344- 

^ Belniarie and Tremessen were Moorish kingdoms in Africa. 

•• Pierre de Lusignan, soon after his accession to tlie throne of 
Cyprus in i 353, took Satulie, tlie ancient Attalia; and in another ex- 
pedition about 13C7, he niiide himself master of the town of Layas, in 
Armenia.— T. 

5 Probably the part of tlie Mediterranean which washes the shores ol 
Palestine, in ojiposition to the small inland Sea or Lake of Gennesaret 
and tlic Dead Sea. 

s Speght and Tyrwhitt read armie. Arive must here mean arrival^ 
or disembarkation of troops. 

<■ Palathia in Aiiatolla. 


And everemore lio hadde a sovereyn prys. 

And though that he was worthy he was wys,' 

And of his port as meke as is a mayde. 

He never yit no vilouye' ne sayde 70 

In al his lyf, unto no nianer wight. 

He was a verray perhght gen til knight. 

But for to telle you of his aray, 

His hox-s was good, but he ne was nought gay. 

Of fustyan he wered a gepoun 7^' 

Al bysmoterud with his haburgeoun.' 

For he was late comen froiu his viage, 

And wente for to doon his pilgrimage.* 

With him ther was his sone, a yong Squyer, 
A lovyer, and a lusty bacheler, go 

With lokkes crulle as they were layde in presse. 
Of twenty yeer he was of age I gesse. 
Of his stature he was of evene lensrthe. 
And wondurly delyver, and gret of strength e. 

' Though he was so worthy or brave iu the field, he was not the less 
sage iu council. 

- A remarkable illustration of the knight's carefulness to avoid all 
unbecoming words is to be found in Joinville's Mtmairs of Louis IX., 
King of France, commonly adleil St. Louis, the model of the kniglitly 
character, a work which should be consulted by every person who de- 
sires to understand the spirit of chivalry. ' I have been constantly with 
him,' says the seneschal, 'for twenty-two years, but never in my life, for 
all the passions I have seen him in, did I hear him swear, or blaspheme 
God, his holy mother, or any of the saints. When he wished to affirm 
anything, he said, ' f ruly it is so.' ... I never heard him mention the 
word ' devil,' if it was not in some book that made it necessary ; and 
it is very disgraceful to the princes and kingdom of France to suffer 
it, and hear the name; for you will see that in any dispute one will not 
say three words to another in abuse, but he will add, ' Go to the 
devil," or other bad words. Now it is very shocking tlius to send man 
or woman to the devil, wlien they are by baptism become the children 
of God. In my castle of .Joinville, whoever nnda-s use of this word is 
instantly bull'eted, and the frequency of bad language is abolished 

■' The habergeon or hauberk was the peculiar armour of knights, 
hence called loricati. 

 lie had but just accomplished his voyage home, and immediately 
ha-itencdto perform tlie pilirrimage he liad vowed for a sale return, 
without wailing to change the clothes be had worn all through tlie 


And he hadde ben somtyme in chivachie,* ^^• 

In Flaundres, in Artoys, and in Picardie, 

And born him wel, as in so litel space, 

In hope to stonden in his lady grace. 

Embrowdid" was he, as it were a mede 

Al ful of fresshe floures, white and reede. qo 

Syngynge he was, or flowtynge, al the day ; 

He was as fressh as is the moneth of May. 

Schort was his goune, with sleeves long and wyde. 

"Wel cowde he sitte on hors, and faire ryde. 

He cowde songes wel make and endite, f5~ 

Justne and eek daunce, and wel piirtray and write. 

So hote he lovede, that by nightertale 

He sleep nomore than doth a nightyngale. 

Curteys he was, lowly, and servysable. 

And carf byforn his fadur at the table.' 400 

A Yeman* had he, and servantes nomoo 
At that tyme, for him lust ryde soo ; 
And he was clad in coote and hood of gi*ene. 
A shef of pocok arwes" bright and kene 

' The squire had been permitted to ride in attendance upon a knight, 
in short military expeditions, preparatory to being himself admitted to 
the order of Ijnighthood. 

- Literally embroidered, from the French, broder ; Speght under- 
stands it to mean freckled ; but it seems rather to signify a complexion 
of mingled white and red. 

3 The descriptions of the knight and squire are interesting examples 
of the beau id^al of the chivalrous character ; its purity of morals and 
reverence for women ; its love of manly exercises, and, at the same 
time, of liberal accomplishments, and its cultivation of that spirit of 
self-respect combined with humility, which feels no degradation in 
giving honour to whom honour is due. 

* Tyrwhitt notices the mistake of the printed copies in calling this 
character ' the squire's yeoman ;' whereas the pronoun he must refer to 
the knight. Yeoman is cognate with the Friesic gaman.a, villager, tlie 
syllable 3a being equivalent to A.-S. gd, modern German yoM, atractof 
land. The title was given to persons in a middling rank of life not in 
service. So tlie miller, in the Reeve's Tale, is CJireful ' to saven his estaat 
and yonianrye.' The knight probably rode on his pilgrimage with only one 
attendant, from humility. In Gamelyn, the word yeongeman is used for 

■i Anuws were usually tieatliered from the wing of the swau, as in 
the ballad ol CV«iu^ chase — 


Under his belte he bar full thriftily. /ab" 

Wei cowde he dresse his takel yonianly ; 

His arwes drowpud nought with fetheres lowe. 

And in his hond he l)ar a mighty bowe. 

A not-heed' hadde he with a broini visage. 

Of woode-craft cowde he wel al the usage. / ^^ 

Upon his ai"me he bar a gay bracer, 

And by his side a swerd and a bokeler, 

Ajid on that other side a gay daggere, 

Harneysed wel, and scharp as poynt of spere ; 

A Cristofre* on his brest of silver schene. tm 

An horn he bar, the bawdrik was of grene; 

A forster was he sothely, as I gesse. 

Ther was also a Nonne, a Pkioresse, 
That of hire smylyng was ful symple and coy ; 
Hire grettest ooth nas bnt by seynt Loy;^ /^^ 

And sche wa.s clept niadame Euglentyne. 
Ful wel sche sang the servise devyne, 

* The dynt yt was bath sad and soar. 
That he of Jlongonberry sete ; 
The swanc-fethars, that liis aiTOwe bar, 
With his hart blood the wear wete.' 

Peacock's feathers were sometimes used on occasions of show for their 
greater beauty. Thus in tiie Lrjldl Gestc of Ttobiin Ilode, pubhshed 
in Ritson'3 collection, Sir Richard at the Lee sends the outlaw a pre- 
sent of a hundred sheaves of arrows : — 

' And every arrow an elle longe. 

With pecocke well ydight.' — Fytte ii. sos. 

It was a 8i?n of the yeoman's carefulness in his business that they 
stuck out from the shaft instead of drooping. 

' Tyrwhitt and Mr. Wrijjht understand by this expression ' a head 
like a nut ;' but there is a Saxon verb ' to notte,' meaning to poll or 
clip, as is noticed by Dr. Slaitland in his Essays on the lieformatUm. 
The expression ' nut-headed knave' occurs in Shakespeare's //enry VIII. 
The hair was worn long in the time of Edward III., sec Chaucer's 
Wordesto Adam, hii o>rne scrivetier; but such a fashion would be incon- 
venient to one engaged in wood-craft. 

■- This saint is represented as an old man of great stature, carrying 
Christ, in the form of a little child, upon his back over a river. His 
legend, in the Leqenda //Krcrt, if taken as an allegory, is not without 
merit, and accounts for the reverence shown him by the lower orders. 

* Tyrwhitt and Mr. Wriglit suppose this to be a contraction of 
Eloy, or Eligius ; but in the French translation of the Legenda Aurea, 
VOL. I. G 


Entuned in liire nose^ ful serayly; 

And Frenscli sche spak ful faire and fetysly, 

Aftur the scole of Stratford atte Bowe," /lb' 

For Frenscli of Parys was to hire unknowe. 

At mete wel i-tanglit was sclie withalle ; 

Sche leet no morsel from hire lippes falle, 

Ne wette hire fyngres in hire sauce deepe. 

Wel cowde sche carie a morsel, and wel keepe, So 

That no drope fil uppon hire brest. 

In curtesie was sett al hire lest. 

Hire overlippe wypud sche so clene, 

That in hire cuppe was no ferthing sene 

Of grees, whan sche dronken hadde hire draught, ift 

Ful semely aftur hire mete sche raught. 

And sikurly sche was of gi^et disport, 

And ful plesant, and amyable of port, 

And peyned hire to counterfete cheei'e 

Of court, and ben estatlich of manere, l-^o 

And to ben holden digne of reverence. 

But for to speken of hire conscience, 

Sche was so charitable and so pitous, 

Sche wolde weepe if that sche sawe a mous 

by Jehan de Vignay, published in i543, the name of St. Louis is thus 
spelt. In the Boole of Homilies, published in the reign of Queen Eliza- 
beth, the name again occurs in the same form. ' God and St. Loy 
Bave tlvee.' It is quite in character, for the prioress, so proud of her 
obsolete French, and who' peyned hire to counterfete cheere of court,' to 
Bwear by ' St. Loy roi de France.' 

' Speght reads I'oice, which gives a better sense ; for to sing the 
service divine tlirough the nose would be anything but seemly. 

^ It is highly characteristic of the innocent aflectation of court 
manners and real ignorance of the ways of the world which pervade 
the whole of the simple Prioress's character, that she should speak the 
French oftlie 'scole of Stratford atte Bowe,' meaning such French as 
was used by the common people at Stratford. ' Scole' here lias the 
tame force as in its more strict application to a particular style in art 
— the Venetian school for example. Tlie expression occurs again in 
the Miller's Tale, where Absolon is said to dance after the scole of 
Oxcnford, i. e., the style that was fashionable at Oxford. Equally cha- 
racteristic ia the I'rioress's precision in practising such rules of good 
manners as could be learned from tlie books of those times. Tyrwhitt 
quotes a passage from the lioincm de la Jlose, which lays down rulea 
for proper behaviour at table almost in the same words. 


Caught in a trappe, if it were deed or bledde. Htb' 

Of siiiaU' Imuiulcs hadde sclie, that sche fedde 

With rostud HcLssh and luyllc and wastel breed. 

But sore wepte sche if oon of hem were deed, 

Or if men smot* it with a yerde smerte : 

And al was conscience and tendre lierte. ^"o 

Fill semely liiru wyniple i-pynched was; 

Hire nose streight ; hire ey«!n grey as glas ; 

Hire mouth ful smal, and therto softe and reed; 

But sikurly sche hadde a fair forheed. 

It was almost a spanne brood, I trowe; •>"** 

For hardily sche was not undiugrowe. 

Ful fctys was hire cloke, as I was waar. 

Of smal coral aboute hire arme sche baar 

A peire of bedes gaudid al with grene;^ 

And theron heng a broch^ of gold ful schene, 60 

' Mr. Wright obsen-es that ' the word men appears here con^rued 
with a singular verb, as though it had been man (on frappa).' Tlie verb, to 
agree with mrH, ought ri'gularly to be smote. But to tliis may, per- 
haps, apply the rule given in his valuable introduction, where he says," It 
was a constant rule to elide the final e in pronunciation, when it pre- 
ceded a word beginning with a vowel or with the letter/;.' And he 
adds, ' This was the source of frequent errors to the scribes, who 
omitted sometimes to write the letter which they did not pronounce." 
(Mr. M'right's note is correct ; fur wlien men y. n^cA in the sen?e of O. mart, or 
V. on, it takes a sing. verb. The right i-e;idiug Ls smol or smool.—\\. W.S.j 

- DnU meant originally a prayer, as in bedesman ; but from the cu.«- 
tom of counting prayers upon a .-itring ol grains, it came at hist to be 
applied to the grains themselves. 'J'lie collection of prayers thus 
counted, and callL'd ro.imies. are divided according to their subjects, and 
the divisions are marked by beads of a dilferent shape or colour ; 
tliese were calied gnudnys, meaning trifling ornaments, and in this 
case were enamelled witli green. Fkiiry states that this kind of devo- 
tion was first introduced to enable the unlearned lay-brothers, or ser- 
vants in the monasteries, to count the paternosters which they were 
bound to recite at the canonical hours, instead of repeating the Psalms 
and lesdons from Scripture in Latin like the learned monks. 

3 Properly a pin, from hroclte, a sirit, but applied generally to any 
jewel. The crowned A ai)pears, in accordance with the motto, to 
denote the sovircigu virtue of charity, or Amor. ^Varton says that 
this motto and device are inconsistent with the prioress's profession : 
but love 01- charity is represented in Scripture as the greatest of 
Christian graces. 

G 2 


On which was first i-writen a crowned A, 
And after that, Amor vincit omnia. 
Anothur Konxe also with hire hadde sche, 
That was hire chapelleyn/ and Prestes thre. 

A Monk ther was, a fair for the maistrie,* /^** 

An out-rydei'e, tliat loved vener ye ; ' 
A manly man, to ben an abbot able. 
Full many a deynte hors hadde he in stable : 
And whan he rood, men might his bridel* heere 
Gyngle in a whistlyng wynd so cleere, 70 

And eek as lowde as doth the chapel belle. 
Ther as this lord was keper of the sella/ 

^ Tynvhitt professes not to be able to conjecture the duties of a 
female chaplain ; they may be inferred, however, from the desire that 
existed to assimilate the offices in religious houses of women to those in 
the monasteries of men, and the duties of a chaplain to the prioress 
may have consisted in attending generally upon her in chapel. 

- A French phrase, applying to one who bid fair to excel all others. 
Tyrwhitt quotes some passages from old books on medicine, where a 
remedy is said to be ' hone pur la maistrie,' that is, a sovereign remedy. 

^ Hunting. — The canon law strictly forbids clergymen to hunt, but 
it was often infringed in the middle ages ; one of the offences most 
severely lashed by Wickliffe. 

■* The custom of hanging small bells on the bridles and harness of 
horses is still observed on the continent for the purpose of giving notice 
to foot pa.ssengers to get out of the way; but it was, no doubt, often 
used for ostentation. So Wicklifi'e inveighs against the clergy in his 
Triologe for their ' fair hors, and jolly and gay sadeles, and bridles 
rimjing by the way.' — Lewis's Widdiffe, p. 121. 

Lydgato, who was a monk of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Edmund's 
Bury, as a set-off against this description of a luxurious monk, in his 
imitation of the Canterbury Tales thus describes himself: — 

On a palfray, slender, long and lene. 
With rusty bridle made not for the sale, 
My man toforne with a void male. 

The host then addresses him : — 

dan Pers, 
Dan Dominike, dan Godfray, or Clement, 
Ye be welcome newly into Kent, 
Thogh your bridel have nother boos ne belL 
« * * • 

Upon your head a wonder thrcdbare hood. 
* In the cell, or religious house, where this lord or monk wa« 
«upcrior, a milder discipline was observed. As for the rules of St. 
Maur and bt Benet, lie let them pass by {forby, still used in Scotland) 

TUE rnoLOGUE 85 

Tlie rcxile of seynt !Maure or of soint Bcneyt,* 

B3' that it was old aud somdel streyt, 

This ilke monk leet forby hem pace, /7<,~ 

Aud helde aftvir the newe world the S})ace, 

He gaf nat of that text a pidled hen, 

That seith, that hunters been noon holy men ; 

Ne tliat a monk, whan he is cloysterles, 

Is likned to a fissche that is watirles;' ^O 

This is to seyn, a monk out of his cloystre. 

But thilke text hild he not worth an oystre. 

Aud I seide his opiniouvi was good. 

What schulde he studie, aud make himsclven wood, 

XJppon a book in cloystre alway to powre, ^-5' 

Or swynke with his handcs, and laboure,* 

As Austyn byt ? How schal the world be served 1 

Lat Austyn have his &wynk to him reserved. 

because they were old and strict, and resolved to hold his course after 
the fashions of the new world. For forhij hem, which occurs three linen 
after, Jlr. Wright substitutes olde thim/cs, from Tyrwhitt. 

' The rule of St. Benedict, contracted Benet, was wriUen about 
AD. 53o, and was the orijiinal, by which almost all the monastic orders 
in the west regulated their observances. 

- Tlie meaning of the word space is not obvious. Tyrwhitt reails 
<r<7C«, and Speght /wee, both implying footsteps. This monk followed 
in the footsteps of the new world. 

3 Tyrwhitt cites the text attributed by Gratian to a Pope Eugenius, 
Sicut phcis sine aqua caret vita, ita sine mona^terio monachtis. Thus 
Joinville says, ' the Scriptures do say that a monk cannot live out of 
his cloister wthout falling into deadly sins, any more than a fish r;in 
live out of water without dying. The reason is plain ; for the religious 
who follow the king's court, eat and drink many meats and wines 
which they would not do were they resident in thoir cloisters ; and this 
lu.xurious living induces them more to sin than if they lived the austere 
life of a convent.' 

* Peter the Venerable thus answers St. Bernard's complaints of the 
disuse of manual labour by the Benedictine monks. ' 'J"he rule [of St. 
Benedict] ordains it [manual labour] only to avoid idleness, which tr« 
avoid by spending our time in holy exercises, prayer, reading, psalmody." 
' As if,' adds Flcury, ' St. Benedict had not given enough time to these 
holy exercises, and had not had good reasons for requiring, besides, 
seven whole hours of labour.' St. Augustin followed St. Kusebius nf 
Vercelli, in making his cathedral clergy live according to a rule aimihu 
to that of the monks, so far as their duties would permit. 


Therfore he was a pricasour aright; 

Greyhoundes he hadde as s'»vifte as fowel in flight; '^^ 

Of prikyng and of huntyng for the hare 

Was al his lust, for no cost wolde he spare. 

I saugh his sieves purfiled atte hond 

With grys/ and that the fynest of a lend. 

And for to festne his hood undur his chyn ^4' 

He hadde of gold y-wrought a curious pyn : 

A love-knotte" in the gi-etter ende ther was. 

His heed was ballid, and schon as eny glas, 

And eek his face as he hadde be anoynt. 

He was a lord ful fat and in good poynt;* Sjyo 

His eyen steep, and rollyng in his heed, 

That stemed as a forneys of a leed ; 

His bootes souple,* his hors in gTet estat. 

Now certeinly he was a fair prelat ; 

He was not pale as a for-pyned goost. *f 

A fat swan loved he best of eny roost. 

His palfray was as broun as eny berye. 

A Frere ther was, a wantoun and a merye, 
A lymytour/ a ful solempne man. 
In alia the ordres foure* is noon that can /O 

' Probably the fur of the grey squirrel, in Frencli petit gris. In St. 
Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin there is a brass of a canon, with tippet 
trimmed with fur. A remnant of this custom is seen in the fur hoods 
of bachelors in our Universities. 

- See aiite, p. 8 3, note 3. 

3 A literal translation of the French embwpoint. 

^ This is part of the description of a smart abbot by an anonymous 
writer of the thirteenth century, ' Oereas habehat in cruribus, quasi 
innatae essent, sine plica porrectas.' — Bod. MS., James, N. 6, p. lii. 
— T. 

^ A lymytour was a friar, to whom had been assigned a certain 
district or limit, witliin wliich he was permitted to solicit alms. 

6 The four orders of mendicant friars were — i. The Dominicans, or 
friars preachers, who took up their abode in Oxford in i2ii, known 
from the colour of their dress as the Black friars, z. Tlie Franciscans, 
founded by St. Francis of Assisi, in ijo7, and known by the name of 
Grey friars. Tlicse first established houses in Knglaiul in ii34. 3. Tlie 
Carmelites, or While friars, so called from their having first appeared 
on llount Carmel. 4. The Augustin Iriars. On their first establish- 
laent, the poverty, the learning, and the industry in preaching of the 


So moclic of (laliaunce and fair lan{rajje. 

He liaddo i-inade many a fair rnariage 

Of yongo wymnicn, at his owne coat. 

Unto his ordre he was a noble post.' 

Ful wi'l biloved and fanmlier \va.s he 2 tS' 

Witli fi-ankeleyns over al in liis cuntre, 

And eek with worthi wommen of the toun ; 

For he liadde power of confessioun, 

As seyde himself, more than a curat, 

For of his ordre he was licenciat.* 20 

Ful sweetly herde he confessioun, 

And plesaunt was his absolucioun; 

He was an esy man to geve penance 

Ther as he wiste to han a good pitance; 

For unto a povi-e ordre for to geve 2^ 

Is signe that a man is wel i-schi'sve. 

friars, presented a favourable contrast to the luxury of the monks, ani 
they were, therefore, at first iiojjiilar ; but the wealtli wliii-li had flowed 
in upon them in the days of their zeal, had, in the time of Chaucer, 
begun to do its work. The following description of a friar of the 
thirteenth century may be taken as the other side of Chaucer's piclur?. 
' While we were at Ilieres, we heard of a very good man, a Cordelier 
friar, who went about the country preaching ; his name was Father 
Hugh. The king being desirous of liearing and seeing him. we went 
out to meet him, and saw a great company of men and women following 
him on foot. On his arrival in the town, the king directed him to 
preach, and his first sermon was against the clergy, whom he blamed 
for being in such numbers with the king, saying they were not in a 
situation to save their souls, or that the Scriptures lied. He afterwards 
addressed the king, and pointed out to him that if he wished to live 
beloved and in peace with his people, he must bcjust and upright. He 
said he had carefully perused the Uible and other holy books, and had 
always found that among princes, whether infidel or Christian, no 
kingdoms had ever been e.\citcd to war against their lords, but through 
want of proper justice being done to the subject.' — Memoirt qf St. 

' Post means pillar or support ; an expression probably taken from 
Gal. ii. 9. where St. Paul calls Peter, and James, and John ' pillars' of 
the church. 

-' In the penitential system of the mcdiaival church, there were 
some cases for which a parish priest could not give absolution, and 
which were reserved for the bishop's decision. The Popes, however, 
have been in the habit of granting to some orders the privilege of 
deciding all cases and absolving from a'l sins, mtliout any reference 
tn the bishops. This was of course a fruiUul source of jealousy. 


For if he gaf, he dorste make avaunt, 
He wiste that a man was repentaiint. 
For many a man so hard is of his herte, 
2,3/7 He may not wepe though him sore smerfce. 
Therfore in stede of wepyng and prayeres, 
Men mooten given silver to the pore frere-S. 
His typet^ was ay farsud ful of knyfes 
And pynnes, for to give faire wyfes. 
«. ^y And certayn he hadde a mery noote, 

Wei couthe he synge and pleye on a rote. 
Of yeddynges' he bar utturly the prys. 
His nekke whit was as the flour-de-lys. 
Therto he strong was as a champioun. 

ji,i^O He knew wel the tavernes in every toun, 
And every ostiller or gay tapstere, 
Bet than a lazer, or a beggere, 
For unto such a worthi man as he 
Acorded not, as by his facult6, 

^Qlf' To have with sike lazars aqueyntaunco. 
It is not honest,^ it may not avaunce, 
For to delen with such poraile, 
But al with riche and sellers of vitaille. 
And over al, ther eny profyt schulde arise, 

^^'^ Curteys he was, and lowe of servyse. 
Ther was no man nowher so vertuous. 
He was the beste begger in al his hous, 
For though a widewe hadde but 00 schoo, 
So plesaunt was his In pi'incipio* 

'■ Typct, hood, cuculla, or cowl. These were very large, and ad- 
mitted of being used as a pocket. 

- Speght gives the choice of three meanings for this word. i. 
brawling ; 2. gadding up and down ; 3- loud singing. The last is 
probably the true meaning, from the Saxon jiddian, or geddian, to 
sing. — Sec Tyrwhitt in loco. 

•* Honest is used here in the sense of the French honvHe, becoming. 

*• The rubric at the end of the mass directs the priest to read the 
beginning of tlie Gospel of St. John. I.'i prindpio erat verbum — Vtt'^ 
ifissale liommmm. 


llfb' Yet wolde he have a ferthinjr or he wente. 
His jmrcliaco was Ijettnr than liis rente.' 
And rage he coutlie and pleyc as a whelpe, 
In love-days' ther couthe he mochil helpe. 
For ther was he not like a cloysterer, 

±lfC? With a thredbare cope^ as a pore scoler, 
But lie was like a mai.ster or a pope. 
Of double worstede was his semy-cope, 
That rounded was as a belle out of presse. 
Somwhat he lipsede, for wantounesse, 

^hb' To make his Englissch swete upon his tunge; 
And in his harpyng, whan that he hadde sunge, 
His eyghen twynkelcd in his heed aright, 
As don the sterres in the frosty night. 
This worthi lymytour was called Huberd. 

ilO A M AKCHAUNT was tlier wdth a forked herd,* 
In motteleye, and high on horse he sat, 
Uppon his heed a Flaundrisch bever hat; 
His botus clapsud faire and fetously. 
His resons he spak ful solempnely, 

^ 7y. Sownynge alway the encres of his wynnyng. 
He wolde the see were kepud for eny thinge 

' A proverbial expression, meaning, apparently, that he was so 
shrewd in trading, that his profits by buying and selling were greater 
than his rent. 

* Arbitrcmcnts. — S. A day appointed for the amicable settlement 
of differences. Bracton.lib. v.fol. 3<59. — T. Both in the arbitration, and 
in the feast which followed, according to the English custom in all such 
business, the friar did good service. At these meetings for the purpose 
of reconciling neighbours, the clergy might be very properly present; 
but the satirists of those days seem to have generally l.iid it to their 
charge as a crime. Thus, in the Vision of Pierce Plowman: — 

• And now is religion a ridere, a romer bi streetis, 
A Icdar of lovc-daiyes,' &c. 

3 A cope is a long cloak, forming n perfect semicircle when laid fiat, 
formerly used in processions, and still worn by the bishops at corona- 
tions. The semi-cope was a short cloak or cape. 

■• A fasliion common in the middle ages, as may be seen in brasses, 
^nd in many of the portraits in Lodge. 


Betwixe Middulburgh and Ore-nelle.' 
Wei coutlie he in escliange sclieeldes sella.* 
This worthi man ful wel his witte bisette; 
^J^ Ther wiste no man that he was in dette, 
So estately was he of governaunce, 
With his bargayns, and with his chevysaunce 
For sothe he was a worthi man withalle, 
But soth to say, I not what men him calle. 

i^Sa" A Clerk^ ther was of Oxenford also, 
That unto logik hadde longe i-go. 
Al so lene was his hors as is a rake, 
And he was not right fat, [ undertake ; 
But lokede holwe, and therto soburly, 

f^ifP Ful thredbare was his overest courtepy, 

For he hadde nought geten him yit a benefice, 
Ne was not worthy to haven an office. 
For him was lever have at his beddes heed 
Twenty bookes, clothed in blak and reed, 

^^y Of Aristotil, and of his philosophie, 

Then robus riche, or fithul, or sawtrie. 
But al though he were a philosophre. 
Yet hadde he but litul gold in cofre ; 
But al that he might of his frendes hente, 

a 0i> On bookes and his lernyng he it spente. 
And busily gan for the soules pray 
Of hem that gaf him wherwith to scolay.* 
Of studie tooke he most cure and heede. 
Not 00 word spak he more than was neede ; 

*jpy Al that he spak it was of heye prudence, 

And schort and quyk, and ful of gret sentence. 

' i. e., guarded, that he might not lose his ships by pirates oi 

' He perfectly understood the system of stock-jobbing, so as to gain 
by the exchange of his crownis, ^cus, or shields, in tlie dilferent money- 
markets of Europe. 

3 A clerk means probably liere, a scholar preparing for the priest- 

* In many Roman Catholic countries, till very lately, it was cu». 
ternary for poor scholars preparing for orders to ask and receive 
contributions from the people for the expenses of their education. 


Sownynge in moral manere was liis speche. 

And ijlailly wuUlo lie lerno, and gladly teche. 
A Skkgkant of Lawk, war and wys, 
J IC That often haddo ben atte parvys/ 

Ther was also, fill riche of excellence. 

Discret he was, and of grct reverence: 

He semed such, his wordes were so wise, 

Justice he was ful often in assise, 
^ /5"By patent, and by ployn coinmissioun; 

For his science, and for his heih reuoun. 

Of fees and robes had he many oon. 

So gret a pnrchasour was ther nowher noon. 

Al was fee symple to him in effecte, 
i "^C His purchasyng might nought ben to him suspecte. 

Nowher so besy a man as he ther nas, 

And yit he semed bcsier than he was. 

In termes hadde caas and domes alle, 

That fro the t}Tne of kyng Will were falle.' 
t| ; 6' Therto he couthe eudite, and make a thing, 

Ther couthe no man pynche^ at his writyng. 

' Abarre; and here it is understood of the conference among the young 
counsellors, pleaders, attorneys, and students of the law, wherein the 
form of pleading and arguing a case is exercised. Fortescue, De Li. 
An;/., c. 5i, says, that alter the judges were risen at eleven of the 
clock from hearing of causes at Westminster, ' Tlacitantes tunc se di- 
vertunt <id perrL'nim, et alibi, consulentcs cum servieiUibus ad Ugeni 
(Serjeants) et aliis conciliariis suis.' — S. Purvis means, however, a 
cliurch-porch, in this case probably at Westminster, where lawyers met, 
as described by Sp<'plit. De Joinville furnishes another illustration : — 
' It was customary, after the Lord de Neeles, the good Lord de Sois- 
gons, and others that were about the King's person, had heard mass, 
for us to go and hear the pleadings at the gattwajj, which is now called 
the Court of Requests.' — .Vtm. of St. Loui<. 

- He had at his fingers' ends all legal cases and rfoonw, or decrees, 
which had been ruled in tlie courts of law since the time of Willium 
the Conqueror. 

3 Pynche appears to mean, to find fault with, except against, as in 
the anecdote told in the notes to Marmion, of the Knight who bore oit 
his shield a falcon, with the motto: — 

' I bear a falcon fairest of flight, 
Whoso pincheth at her, his death is dipht 

In 1,'raith.' 

Thus also in Chaucer's BaUndi ofttie ViUa/je, Fortuiie says;— 
' Tboupinchest at my mutubilitie.' 


And every statute couthe lie pleyn by roote. 

He rood but hoomly in a medled coote, 

Gird with a seynt of silk, with barres smale ; 
^^0 Of his ari-ay telle I no lenger tale. 

A Frankeleyn^ ther was in his companye; 

Whit was his berde, as the dayesye. 

Of his complexioun he was sangwj'n. 

Wei loved he in the morn a sop of "wyn. 
J ^y To lyve in delite was al his wone, 

For he was Epicurius owne sone, 

That heeld opynyoun that pleyn delyt 

Was verraily felicite perfyt. 

An househaldere, and that a gret, was he ; 
^liO Seynt Julian'' he was in his countre. 

His breed, his ale, was alway after oon ; 

A bettre envyned man was nowher noon. 

Withoute bake mete was never his hous. 

Of fleissch and fissch, and that so plentyvous, 
3 iyi' It snewed in his hous of mete and drynk, 

Of alle deyntees that men cowde thynke. 

Aftur the sondry sesouns of the yeer, 

He chaunged hem at mete and at soper. 

Ful many a fat pai-trich had he in mewe, 
- y^ And many a brem and many a luce in stewe. 

Woo was his cook, but if his sauce were 

Poynant and scharp,' and redy al his gere. 

His table dormant in his halle alway 

Stood redy covered al the longe day. 
XlfS At sessions ther was he lord and eire. 

Ful ofte tyme he was knight of the schire. 

' Fortescue (De LI. Ang., c. z9) describes a Franklin as ' Pater- 
familias, magnis ditatus possesslonibus.' 

• ' Ce fut celluy Julien qui est requis de ceux qui cheminent pour 
avoir boil hostel.' — Leg. Doric. Having by raiscliance slain his father 
and mother, as a penance, he established a hospital near a dangerous 
ford, where he lodged and fed travellers gratuitously. 

3 Savjx piqiumte is still familiar to gourviets. 


An anlas' and a t^ipsor' al of silk 

Henn; at liis genliil, whit as luorue mylk, 

A schirreve hadde he ben, and a counter; 

^ &0 Was nowhor such a worthi vavasor. 

An Haburdassher and a Oahpentek, 
A Webbk, a Deyer, and a Tapicer, 
Weren with us eeke, clothed in oo lyvere,' 
Of a solempne and gi-et fVaternite. 

'^bi> Ful freissli and uewo here gere piked was; 
Here knyfes were i-chapud nat with bras, 
But al with silver wrought ful clene and wel, 
Hei'c gurdles and here ])0iiclics every del. 
Wel semed eche of hem a fair burgeys, 

i'J^ To sitten in a geldelialle on the deys.* 
Every man for the wisdom that he can, 
Was scha])ly for to ben an aldurmau. 
For catel hadde they inough and rente, 
And eek here wyfes wolde it wel assente; 

^ ^^ And elles certeyn hadde thei ben to blame. 
It is right fair for to be clept madame, 
And for to go to vigilies^ al bj'fore, 
And ban a mantel riallv i-bore. 

' A falcliion or woodknife, wliich I gather out of Matthew Paris, 
p. S 35, where he writeth thus. ' Quorum unus videns occiduam partem 
dorsi (of Richard Earl Marshal, then fi^jhting for his life in Ireland) 
minus armis communitam, percussit eum in posteriora loricam sub- 
levando cum quodam genere cultelli, quod vulgariter analacitus uun- 
cupatur." — S. 

- A purse. In Albert Dilrer's beautiful etching of the Entombment, 
Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy man, like the Franklin, has a large 
purse with tassels haupnjj at his girdle. 

s These tradesmen all belonged to, and wore the dress of, one livery 
or guild. 

■• One of the good and kindly customs of the middle ages, — a custom 
which was till lately observed by the Hidalfjos in 8pain, — W!<s for the 
whole household to dine to,c;i>thor in the great hall ; but at one end waJ 
a raised platform or deys, where persons of higlier rank were served, 
as is still the practice in our Colleges. The word dais is still used in 
East Anglia for a raised platform. 

5 It was the manner in times past, upon festival evens, called vigils, 
for parishioners to meet in their church-houses, or chui'ch-yards, and 


A Cook thei hadde with liem for the nones, 
5 5^ To boyle ehj'knes and the mary bones, 

And poudre marchant, tart, and galyngale. 

Wei cowde he knowe a drauofht of Londone ale. 

He cowde roste, sethe, broille, and frie, 

Make mortreux, and wel bake a pye. 
5 S^ But gret harm was it, as it semede me, 

That on his schyne a mormal hadde he ; 

For blankmanger he made with the beste. 
A ScHiPMAN was ther, wonyng fer by weste : 

For ought I woot, he .was of Dertemouthe. 
J ^0 He rood upon a rouncy, as he couthe,* 

In a gowne of faldyng to the kne. 

A dagger hangyng on a laas hadde he 

Aboute his nekke under his arm adoun. 

The hoote .somer had maad his hew al broun , 
\)^lt' And certeinly he was a good felawe. 

Ful many a draught of wyn had he drawe 

From Burdeux-ward, whil that the chapman sleeji.' 

Of nyce conscience took he no keep. 

If that he foughte, and hadde the heigher hand, 
U ffV By water he sente hem hoom to every land. 

But of his craft to rikne wel the tydes. 

His stremes and his dac-gers him bisides, 

His herbergh and his mone, his lodemenage, 

Ther was non such from Hulle to Cai'tage. 
^^J* Hardy he was, and wys to undertake; 

With many a tempest hadde his herd ben schake. 

there to have a drinking fit for the time. Here they used to end many 
qnarrels betwixt nciglibour and neighbour. Hither came the wives in 
comely manner, and tliey that were of the better sort had their 
mantles carried witli tliem, as well for sliow as to keep them from cold 
at table. — S. Tliese are jirobably what are forbidden in tlie 88th 
Canon of the Church of England, under the name of feasts, banquets, 
suppers, churchales, drinkings,' &c. 

' As well as he knew how. It seems that sailors have always been 
bad horsemen. 

- While the merchants, or supercargo, to whom the wine belonged, 
were asleep, he used to tap a caok. 


He kiu'w wel alle the liavencs, as thei were, 

From .ScoLlond to tlie cape of Fyuestere, 

And every cryk in Bretayne and in Spayne; 
i^CO Hi» barge y-clopud was the Magdelayue. 
Thcr was also a DocTOUR of riiisiic, 

In al this world ne was ther non him lyk 

To speke of phisik and of surgery e; 

For he was groundiul in nstmnomye.' 
l^ fy He kepte liis pacdont wondurly wcl 

In houres by his magik naturel.' 

Wei cowde he fortune the ascendent 

Of his ymages for his pacieut. 

He knew the cause of every nialadye, 
i^l'O Were it of cold, or hete, or moyst, or drye, 

And where thei engendrid, and of what humour; 

He was a verrey parfight practisour. 

The cause i-kuowe, and of his harm the roote, 

Anon he gaf the syke man his l)00te. 
^ l-b Ful redy hadde he his apotecaries, 

To sende him di-agges, and his letuariea, 

For eche of hem made othur for to wynne; 

Here friendschipe was not newe to beg}'une. 

Wei knew he the olde Esculapius, 
U i y And Deiscorides, and eeke Ruius ; 

Old Ypocras, Haly, and Galieuj* 

Serapyon, Razis, and Avycen ; 

1 A prcat part of the medical practice of the middle ages consisted 
in aflmini.stcrinfr rtiuedics according to the position of tlie planets in 
the lioavens, as Mr. Wrifjlit observes. At the present time the horses 
and cows in most of the farms in England are dosed according to the 
astrological directions in Zadkicl's Alnianuck. 

- The reading in the text, which is from the Ilarl. MS., conveys a 
piece of irony wliich is lost in the common one, a ful r/ret del. 'J'he 
practice of natural magic is alluded to in the Iloitae of Fame. It wa« 
probably derived I rom ihe classical heatliinism. — i'Ule Mok. 5«/., lib. 
i. 8. 

•• Hippocrates and Galen were spelled Ypocras, or Hippocras, 
and (Jallien by writers iu the middle ages. These and the rest 
of the authors here named were tlie great medical authorities oi 
thooe times. 


AveiTois, Damescen, and Constantyn; 

Bernard, and Gatisden, and Gilbertyn, 
l^ijj Of his diete mesurable was he, 

Por it was of no super finite, 

But of gret norisching and digestible. 

His studie was but litel on the Bible.' 

In sangwin and in pers he clad was al, 
L(Ui) Lined with taffata and with sendal. 

And yit he v.'as but esy in dispence; 

He kepte that he wan in pestilence.* 

For gold in phisik is a cordial ; 

Therfore h? lovede gold in special. 
e^ Ui' A good WiF was ther of byside Bathe, 

But sche was somdel deef, and that was skathe. 

Of cloth-makyng^ she hadde such an haimt, 

Sche passed hem of Ypris and of Gaunt. 

In al the parisshe wyf ne was ther noon 
l^ljO That to the offiyng* byfom hire schulde goon, 

And if ther dide, certeyn so wroth was sche. 

That sche was thanne out of alle charite. 

Hire keverchefs weren ful fyne of grounde ; 

I durste swere they weyghede ten pounde* 
(j$b That on the Sonday were upon hire heed. 

Hir hosen were of fyn scarlett reed, 

Ful streyte y-teyed, and schoos ful moyste and newe- 

Bold was hir face, and fair, and reed of hewe. 

• See post. Pardoner's Prologue. 

2 Perhaps, as Mr. "VVright suggests, in allusion to the great pesti- 
lence which devastated Europe in the thirteenth century, and of 
which there is such a magnificent description in the opening of the 

3 The AVest of England to this day vies with Yorkshire in the excel- 
lence of its cloth. 

■* This was probably the offering on relic-Sunday, when the congre- 
gation went up to the altar in succession to kiss the relics. ' But the 
relics we must kiss and offer unto, especially on relic-Sunday.' — Book of 

5 The high and massive head-dresses of this period, often to be seen 
on brasses, are still worn by the peasants of Caux, in Normandy, 
called Cauchoises, and are very becoming. 


Sche was a worthy wommfin al hire lyfe, 
[^ ^(^'Housbondes atte cliirclie doiu' hadde sche fyfe, 

Withouten othur companye in youthe; 

But thereof needetli nont^ht to speke as nouthe. 

And thries liadde sche lieu at Jerusalem; 

Sche hadde passed many a straunge streem ; 
1^0!}' At Rome sclie hadde ben, a:ul at Boloyne, 

In Galice at seynt Jame, and at Coloyne.* 

Sche cowde nioche of wandryjig by the weye. 

Gattothud^ was sche, sothly for to seye. 

Uppon an amblere esely sche sat, 
i4 1C Wyniplid ful wel, and on hii-e heed an hat 

As brood as is a bocler or a targe ; 

A foot-mantel aboute hire hupes large, 

And on hire feet a paire of spores scharpe/ 

In felawschipe wel cowde lawghe and carpe. 
L{ yy Of remedyes of love sche knew parchaunce, 

For of that art sche knew the oldc daunce. 
A good man was ther of religioun, 

And was a pore Persoun of a toun ;* 

But riche he was of holy thought and werk. 
lj$0 He was also a lerned man, a clerk 

That Cristes gospel gladly wolde preche ; 

His parischens devoutly wolde he teche. 

' According to the old custom, the priest married the couple at the 
church door, and immediately afterwards proceeded to the altar to 
celebrate mass, at which the newly-married persons communicated. 
The rubrics in the modern English ollice arc to tlie same efTcct. 

' Sl>e had probably gone to Cologne on a pilgrimage to the relics of 
the Tliree Kings, or Wise ^len of tlie East, said to be there preserved. 
The body of St. James the Apostle was supposed to liave been carried 
in a ship without a rudder to Galicia, and was preserved at Conipos- 
tella, whither there was a prodigious resort of pilgrims. 

•* .Speght reads cat-tothcd, of wliicli the sense seems more obvious. It 
would mean of teeili uneven and far asunder, a peculiarity wliicli 
gives a bold look, and so may be considered characteristic. 

* It appears she bestrode her horse, like the paysannes in France. 

5 Parson or parish priest, so called because he is the perfojia ecclesi(r, 
the representative or mouth-piece, through whom the Church, that ii 
the Christians, in that particular parish, addrei*es its worship to (JoJ. 
— See Blackstone's Osmtn. — Town here means toicnland or parish. 

VOL. I. H 


Benigiie ho was, and wonder diligent, 
And in adversite ful pacient; 
Ifffy And such he was i-proved ofte sithes. 

Ful loth were him to curse for his tythes/ 
Eut rather wolde he geven out of dowte. 
Unto his pore parisschens aboute. 
Of his ofFrynge, and eek of his substaunce.* 

l^ijfi He cowde in litel thing han suffisance. 

Wyd was his parisch, and houses fer asondur, 
But he ne lafte not for reyne ne thondur, 
In siknesse ne in meschief to visite 
The ferrest in his parissche, moche and lite, 

(4^6' Uppon his feet, and in his hond a staf. 

This noble ensample unto his scheep he gaf, 
That ferst he wroughte, and after that he taughte, 
Out of the gospel he tho wordes caughte, 
And this figure he addid }dt therto, 

y0fi That if gold ruste, what scliulde yren dool 
For if a prest be foul, on whom we truste, 
No wondur is a lewid man to ruste; 
And schame it is, if that a prest take kepe, 
A schiten schepperd and a clene schepe; 

S^pl}* Wei oughte a prest ensample for to give, 

By his clennesse, how that his scheep schulde lyve. 
He sette not his benefice to huyre. 
And lefte his scheep encombred in the myre, 
And ran to Londone, unto seynte Poules, 

^(0 To seeken him a chaunterie for soules,^ 
Or with a brethurhede be withholde;* 
But dwelte at hoom, and kepte wel his folde, 

' Refusal to pay tithes was punishable with the lesser excommuni- 

2 Of what he obtained by the voluntary offerings of his parishioners, 
as well as by his benefice. 

3 A chantry for souls was an endowment for a priest to sing or 
chant masses for tlie benefit of the souls 01 the founders. The parson 
did not leave a ciwatc to perform his parocliial duties, and seek one of 
these sinecures for himself in Saint Paul's. 

* To be maintained in a religious house. 


So that tlie "wolfe ne iiiatlo it not myscai-ye. 
He Wiis ci scheppei'de and no mcrccnarie ;* 

yi Ij And though he holy were, and vertuoiis, 
He was to scnful man noiiifht dis{)itous, 
Ne of his speche danngerous ne digne, 
But in his tcchini? discret and l^eniicne. 
To drawe folk to heven by faimesse, 

^"IC By good euiiauiple, was his busynesse : 
But it were eny persona obstinat, 
What so he were of high or lowe estat, 
Him wolde he snybbe scharply for the nones. 
A bettre precst 1 ti'owe ther nowher non is. 

({Uii' He waytud after no pompe ne reverence, 
Ne maked him a spiced conscience,"" 
But Cristes lore, and his apostles twelve, 
He taught, and ferst he folwed it himselve. 

With him ther Avas a Ploughmax, liis brothur, 

6»* be That hadde i lad of dong ful many a fothur. 
A trewe swynker and a good was hee, 
Lysynge in pecs and paiiight charitee. 
God loved he best with al his trewe herte 
At alle tymes, though him gained or smei*te, 
And thanne his neighebour right as himselve. 
He wolde thrcisshe, and therto dyke and delve, 


' John X. II. 

* The meaiiin<: is not obvious, and Tyrwhitt professes not to under- 
stand it. It may signify that liis conscience was not sophisticated hy 
tlie sublilties of casuistry, compared to far-fetched spices, but guided 
by the plain words of Scripture. 

It is quite natural that Chaucer, the friend of John of Gaunt, 
should praise the parochial clergy who were poor, and therefore not 
formidable, at the expense of the rich monastic orders, who formed the 
only barrier which then existed against the despotic power of the 
aristocracy. It should nrlso be remembered that the same poverty 
which made the secular clergy humble and frugal, left them also illite- 
rate ; and that it is to the IV'nedictines, and their magnificent libraries, 
that we owe the preservation, in an iron age, not only of the 
Fathers, but of Homer, of Virgil, and of Cicero. — See Ixl. JIncaulay's 
excellent remarks upon this subject in his IlUtory qf Ensiand, 
TOl. i. p. 6. 

II 2 


For Crktes sake, witli every pore wiglit, 
Withouten liiiyre, if it laye in his might. 
His tythes payede he ful fau-e and wel, 

tfi^if Bathe of his owno swynk and his catel. 
In a tabbard he rood upon a mere.^ 

Ther was also a reeve and a mellere, 
A sompnour and a pardoner also, 
A maunciple, and my self, ther was no mo. 

^''Hi' The Mellere was a stout carl for the nones, 
Ful big he was of braun, and eek of boones ; 
That prevede wel, for over al ther he cam. 
At wrastlynge he wolde here awey the ram.'' 
He was schort schuldred, broode, a thikke knarre, 

y/i? Ther nas no dore that he nold heve of harre, 
Or breke it with a rennyng with his heed. 
His berd as ony sowe or fox was reed, 
And therto brood, as though it were a spade. 
Upon the cop right of his nose he hade 

iCifif A werte, and theron stood a tuft of hei-es, 
Reede as the berstles of a souwes eeres. 
His nose-thurles blake were and wyde. 
A swerd and a bocler baar he by his side, 
His mouth as wyde was as a gret forneys. 
if(f^ He was a jangler, and a golyardeys, 

And that was most of synne and hai'lotries. 
"Wel cowde he stele corn, and tollen thries ;' 
And yet he had a thombe of gold parde.* 
A whight cote and blewe hood wered he. 

' The ploughman's tabard was probably what we should call a 
blouse, or smock-frock. No one of any pretensions rode upon a mare 
in the middle ages. 

* A ram was the usual prize at wrestling matches. — See the Col:c's 
Tale of Gnmelyn. 

3 Besides the usual payment In money for grinding corn, millers are 
always allowed what is called ' toll,' amounting to 4lbs. out of every 
sack of flour. 

^ If the allusion be, as is most probable, to the old proverb. Every 
honest miller has a thumb of (joUl. tlic passage may mean, that our mil- 
ler, notwithstanding his thefts, was an honest miller, — ». e., as honest an 
his brethren. — T. 


Ij};})' A bagi^cpipc^ cowdc lie blowe and sowne, 

Ami therwithal lie brought us out of towne. 
A geiitil ^Maun'ciple was tlier of a temple, 
Of which achatoui's mighten take exemple 
For to be wys in beyyiug of vitaillo. 
$10 For whethur that he payde, or took by taille,' 
Algate he wayted so in his acate, 
That he was ay biforn and in good state. 
Xow is not that of God a ful fair grace, 
That such a lewed mannes wit schal pace 

^Tif The wisdom of an heep of lernede men ? 
Of niaystres hadde moo than thries ten, 
That were of lawe expert and curious ; 
Of which ther were a doseyn in an house, 
Worthi to be stiwardes of route and lond 

ijSO Of any lord that is in Engelond, 

To make him lyre by his propre good, 
In honour detteles, but if he were wood, 
Or lyve as scarsly as he can desire ; 
And able for to helpen al a scliire 

^y In any caas that mighte falle or happe ; 

And yit this maunciple sette hero aller cappe.' 

The PtEEVE was a sklendre colerik man, 
His berd wa.s scliave as neigh as ever he can. 
His heer was by his eres iieighe* i-shorn. 

cCfQ His top was dockud lyk a preest biforn. 

' The ba.crpipe has long since disappeared from England, wljere it 
was once a favourite among tlie lower orders. In Albert Diirer's etcli- 
wg of tlie Nativity, one of the sliepherds carries a bagpipe; and it may 
yet be seen in Italy. 

- Marked the reckoning on a tally, bought on credit ; from lailUr, 
to cut. 

^ To set a man's cap is to cheat him. Aller is the genitive plural of 
alle, and the passage means, therefore, set the cap of them all, — i.e., 
cheated them all. The same construction occurs afterwards — ' Up roos 
our hoste, and was our althur (aller) cok,' was cock for us all, — i. «'.. 
wakened and gathered us togetlier as a cock does his hens. In modern 
(jerman, aUer is used in the same way, as der aller besU, the best 
of all. 

* This ia the reading of the Harl. MS. Mr. 'Wright subslitutct 


Ful longe wern liis leggus, and ful lene, 

Al like a staff, ther was no calf y-sene. 

Wei cowde he kepe a gerner and a bynne ; 

Ther was non auditour cowde on him wynne. 
S^if "VVel wist he by the drought, and by the reyn, 

The yeeldyng of his seed, and of his greyn. 

His lordes scheep, his nete/ and his dayerie, 

His swyn, his hors, his stoor, and his pultrie, 

"Was holly in this reeves governynge, 
If ffO And by his covenaunt gaf the rekenynge, 

Syn that his lord was twenti yeer of age ; 

Ther couthe noman bringe him in arrerage. 

Ther nas ballif, ne herde, ne other hyne, 

That they ne knewe his sleight and his covyne ; 
If 0i3 They were adrad of him, as of the deth. 

His wonyng was ful fair upon an heth, 

With gi-ene trees i-schadewed was his place. 

He cowde bettre than his lord purchace. 

Ful riche he was i-stored prively, 
(flO His lord wel couthe he plese subtilly, 

To geve and lene him of his owne good, 

And have a thank, a cote, and eek an hood. 

In youthe he lerned hadde a good mester ; 

He was a wel good wright, a carpenter. 
^Hj This reeve sat upon a wel good stot,^ 

That was a pomely gray, and highte Scot. 

A long surcote of pers* uppon he hadde, 

And by his side he bar a msty bladde. 

• The Harl. MS. reads meet, but all the editions ncte, which is evi- 
dently the true reading. The neat stock comes in naturally in the 
enumeration of the different kinds of cattle ; but the Reeve would 
have nothing to do with the keeping of his landlord's meat. 

' Speght interprets this a young horse. It properly means a young 
bullock; but the names of young animals are apt to be indiscriminately 
applied to different sjjecies. The name given to the horse of the Kceve, 
who lived at Bawdcswtll, in Norfolk, is a curious instance of Chaucer's 
accuracy : for to this day tliere is scarcely a farm in Norfolk or Suffolk 
in which one of the liorses is not called Scot. As tlie name has no 
meaning, it must be attributed to an immemorial tradition. 

3 Harl. MS., bkw. Pers, Mr. Wright says, was of a sky-blue colour. 

Tin: PROLOGUE. 103 

Of Nortlifolk was this reeve of which I telle, 
^tC Bysido a touii men civlleu Baklcswclle. 
'i'ukkiitl lie was, as is a frere, aboute. 
And ever he rood the hynderest of the route. 

A SoMPNOfU was ther with lis in that place, 
That hadde a fyr-rocd chcrubynes face,' 

^ ^*For sawcf'iiera he was, with eyj^hen narwe. 
As hoot ho was, and leccherous, a.s a, 
With skalled browes blak, and piled Ijcrd ; 
Of his visage children woren sore aferd. 
Ther nas quyksilver, litnrge, ne brimstone, 

{^$^ Boras, ceruce, ne oille of tartre noon,' 

Ne oynement that wolde dense and byte, 
That him might heljien of his whelkes white, 
Ne of the knobbcs sittyng on his cheokes. 
Wei loved he gavleek, oynonns, and ek leekes, 

0^y And for to drinke strong wyn reed as blood. 

Thanne wolde he speke, and crye as he were wood- 
And whan that he wel dronken hadde the wyn, 
Than wolde he speke no word but Latyn. 
A fewe termes hadde he, tuo or thre, 

^UO That he hadde lerncd out of som decree; 
No woudur is, he horde it al the day; 
And eek ye knowe wel, how that a jay 
Can clepe Watte, as wel as can the pope. 
But who so wolde in othur thing him gi'ope, 

^L'/Thanno hadde he spent al his jihilosophie, 
Ay, Questio quid jurist wolde he crye. 
He was a gentil harlot* and a kynde ; 
A bettre felaw schulde men nowher fynde. 

' n. Stejihens, Apol. Ihrod, lib. i. c. 3o, quotes the s.nine thought 
from a French eiiigruni : — • Nos grand doctcurs au Cherubin visajjc' 
— T. 

- L'sual remeUics in the 5I.itcria Mcdicn of tliat period for scorbutic 

•' This kind of qui'-tion occurs ft-cqnently in lialph de Ilnuihnm. 
After hfivin? stated a case he adds, Quiiljuriat and tlien proceeds to 
pive tl\e answer to it. — T. 

* llie name of harlot was originally given to men as well as women, 


He wolde suffre for a quart of -wyn 
[ffifO A good felawe to ban his conciibyn 

A twelve moneth, and excuse him atte fulle, 

And prively a fynch eek cowde he pulle. 

And if he fond owher a good felawe, 

He wolde teche him to have non awe 
^^6' 111 such a caas of the ai-chedecknes curs/ 

But if a mannes sole were in his purs ; 

For in his purs he scholde punyssche-d be. 

' Purs is the ercedeknes helle,' quod he. 

But well I woot he lyeth right in dede ; 
ffiltO Oi cursyng oweth ech gulty man to drede ; 

For curs wol slee right as assoillyng saveth ; 

And also ware of him a significavit.'^ 

In daunger' he hadde at his own assise 
^ The yonge gurles of the diocise, 
^t^' And knew here counseil, and was al here red.* 

A garland^ had he set upon his heed, 

As gret as it were for an ale-stake ; 

A bokeler had he maad him of a cake.* 
With him ther rood a gentil Pardoner 
^ "^p Of Rouncival/ his frend and his comper, 

as in the Eoman de la nose, roi des Rihaulx is translated king of harlots. 

• Tlie meaning is,— he would teach his friends to consider the Arch- 
deacon's excommunication as a mere matter of money, because it could 
be bought olT. 

* Slfjnifimvit means the writ de excommunicato capiendo, being its 
initial word. 

'* In his jurisdiction. 

•* Speght reads, loas of her red, which gives a more obvious sense; but 
in either case the passage means, was of their counsel, gave them his 

■' Of this custom there is an example in the .ffn/^y/frs Tale, page 159. 

*■• A grotesque trick, such as the common people delight in. The 
peasants of Rouen, on their march to Paris to join hi the Kevolution of 
1830, in the same spirit, carried their loaves of bread stuck on ihcir 

7 Of Hounceval. 'lyrwhitt supposed that this was the name of some 
fraternity, and states that there was an Hospital Beatce Maricc dc 
Roujweyvalle, in Cliaring, London. 


That sti'cyt was comen from the court of Rome. 

Fill lowile ho saiiiii, C(jme liidor, love, to me.' 

This sompiiour bar to him a stif bunlouu, 

Was nevere trompe of half so gret a soun. 
/ yj' This pardoner hadde heer as yelwe as wex, 

But smothe it heng, as doth a strike of flex ; 

By unoes hynge his lokkcs that he hadde, 

And therwith he his schuldres overspradde. 

Ful tlieune it lay, by culpons on and oon, 
^fiO But hood, for jolitee, ne wered he noon, 

For it was trussud up in his walet. 

Him thought he rood al of the newe get,' 

Dischevele, sauf his cappe, he rood al bare. 

Suche glaryng eyghen hadde he as an hare. 
^^If A verniele' hadde he sowed on his capjje. 

His walet lay byforn liinx in his lappe, 

Bret ful of pardoun* come from Rome al hoot. 

A voys he hadde as smale as eny goot. 

No berd ne hadde he, ne nevdr scholde have, 
LC(0 As smothe it was as it ware Lite i-schave ; 

I trowe he Avere a geldyng or a mare. 

But of his craft, fi'o Berwyk unto Ware, 

Ne was ther such another pardoner. 

For in liis male he hadde a pilwebeer, 

' This was probably the burthen of some popular song. The fact of 
to me rhymins to Home, illustrates the mauncr in wliich the final e 
must be pronounced in Chaucer's poetry. 

- Of the new fashion. Getie or <jett (for the MSS. differ) is used in 
the same sense by Uccleve, de Heg. Princ. The I'ardoner rode without 
the usual hood on his head, dischevele or uncovered ; he had only 
his cappe, cope, or short cloak. 

3 A painting of the face of Christ. ' Inter has fcminas una fuit 
Bernice, sive Veronice, vulgo Veronica, quie sudarium Christoc.xhibens, 
ut faciem sudore ct sanguine madentem abstorgeret, ab eo illud recepit, 
cum imprcssa in illo ejusdem Cliristi efligie, ut habet Christiana 
traditio.' — Corn, a Lnjnde in S. Matt, xxvii. It. 

* Brim-full of imlulgcnccs granted by the Court of Kome. The 
theory of pardons or indulgences is that they are commutations, in 
consideration of some act of devotion, of tlie long temporal peualtiea 
for sin required by the Canons of the Primitive Church. 


(r f 6 Whicli, that lie saide, -was oure lady veyl : 
He seide. he hadde a gobet of the seyl 
That seynt Petur hadde, whan that he wente 
Upiion the see, till Jhesu Crist him hente. 
He hadde a cros of latoiin ful of stones, 

7^ And in a glas he hadde pigges bones. 

But with thise reliques, whanne that he fand 
A pore persoun dwellyng uppon land. 
Upon a day he gat him more moneye 
Than that the persoun gat in monthes tweye. 

7<?y And thus with feyned flaterie and japes. 

He made the persoun and the people his apes. 
But trewely to tellen atte laste. 
He was in cluxrche a noble ecclesiaste. 
Wei cowde he rede a lessoun or a storye, 

7 lO But althei-best^ he sang an offertorie f 

For wel wyst he, whan that song was songe, 
He moste preche, and wel alFyle his tuuge, 
To Wynne silver, as he right wel cowde ; 
Therefore he sang ful meriely and lowde. 

7/^ Now have I told you schortly in a clause 

Thestat, tharray, the nombre, and eek the cause 

Why that assembled was this companye 

In Southwerk at this gentil ostelrie, 

That highte the Tabbard, faste by the Belle. 

7'^0 But now is tyme to yow for to telle 

How that we bare us in that ilke night, 
Whan we were in that ostelrie alight : 
And affcur wol I telle of oure viage. 
And al the remenaunt of oure pilgrimage. 

' AUlierhest means best of all ; so the German a?Zer6esfe— See emte, 
p. 1 01, note 3. 

- A text of Scripture said or sunp after the Niccnc Creed in the 
mass, dtirinfT wliicli the people ni;ide tlieir oli'orings ; and immediately 
after followed tlie sermon. 'And while we oiler (that we should not 
be weary or repent us of our cost) tlie music and minstrelsy goeth 
merrily all the olfertory time.' — Book of Homilies. 


7V^ But ferst I pray you of your curtesie, 

That ye no rcttc' it n:it my vilanye, 

Though that I si)eko al pleyii in this matere, 

To telle you hero wordes and here cheere ; 

Ne though I spoke here ■vvonles propurly. 
liO F'Ji" this yo knowen al so wel as I, 

^^'ho so schal telle a tale aftur a man, 

He moste reherce. as neigh as ever he can, 

Every word, if it be in his charge, 

Al speke he never so rudely ue large ; 
73^ Or elles he moot telle his tale untrewe, 

Or feyne thing, or fynde wordes newe. 

He may not spare, though he were his brothur ; 

He moste as wel sey oo word as anothur. 

Crist spak himself ful broode in holy writ, 
7<<o And wel ye woot no vilanye is it. 

Eke Plato seith, who so that can him rede. 

The wordes mot be cosyn'' to the dede. 

Also I pray you to forgeve it me, 

Al have I folk nat set in here degre 
finb' Here in this tale, as that thei schulde stonde ; 

My witt is schorte,^ ye may wel undurstonde. 
Greet cheere made oure ost us everichon, 

And to the souper sette he us anon ; 

And served us with vitaille atte beste. 
'^i3C> Strong was the wyn, and wel to drynke us leste. 

' Tliat j-ou interpret it not as a proof of my base brooding. [The 
wdnl r««e, sometimes arette, is from tlie Icelandic ritta, wliich means to 
adjudge, to give sentence.] 

- From IJoetliius, I)e ConsoUUione, lib. iii., tlius translated by 
Chaucer — ' That needs the words mote been cosins to the things of 
which they speakcn.' His excuse for the broadness of the language 
which he puts into the mouths of his pilgrims goes ujwn the assump- 
tion that he is relating an incident wliich actually took place, and 
which he is therefore bound not to falsify. This piece of iimrtti is 
affected to give an air of reality to the tiction upon wliich the poem ia 

s Harl. MS., thvnM. 


A semely man cure ooste was Avdthalle 
For to lian been a mai^chal in an halle ; 
A large man was he with eyghen stepe, 
A fairere burgeys is ther noon in Chepe : 
7i'i' Bold of his speche, and Avys and well i-taught, 
And of manhede lakkede he right naught. 
Eke therto he was right a mery man, 
And after soper pi ay en he bygan, 
And spak of myrthe among othnr thinges, 

7 ^/> Whan that we hadde maad our rekenynges; 
And sayde thus : ' Lo, lordynges. trewely 
Ye ben to me right welcome hertily : 
For by my trouthe, if that I schal not lye, 
I ne saugli this yeer so mery a companye 

-J Ipjj' At oones m this herbei'gh as is now. 

Fayn wold I do yow merthe, wiste I how. 
And of a merthe I am right now bythought, 
To doon you eese, and it schal coste nought. 
Ye goon to Caunturbury ; God you speede, 

•ifO The blisful martir quyte you youre meede! 
And wel I woot, as ye gon by the weye, 
Ye schapen yow to talken and to pleye; 
For trewely comfort ne merthe is noon 
To lyde by the weye domb as a stoon; 

7 7"^ And therfore wol I make you disport, 

As I seyde erst, and do you som confort. 
And if yow liketh alle by oon assent 
Now for to standen at my juggement; 
And for to werken as I schal you seye, 

^9 J? To morwe, whan ye riden by the weye, 
Now by my fadres soixle that is deed. 
But ye be merye, smyteth of myn heed. 
Hold up youre hond withoute more speche.' 
Ouie counseil was not longe for to seche; 
1%if\]?, thought it nas nat woi'th to make it wys,* 
And graunted him mthoute more avys, 

' To make it a matter of wisdom or deliberation. So in the Reeve't 
Tale, straum/e made it signifies tlie priest made it a matter of difficulty. 
— T. See p. Hi. 


And bad liim scie his verditc, as him leste. 

' Lordynges,' quoth ho, ' nowherkeuetli for the beste; 

But taketh not, T pray you, iu di-sdayii ; 

I^^P This is the poynt, to speken schort and phiyn, 
That ech oi yow to schorte with youre weie, 
In this viage, schal telle tales tweye, 
To Caunturburi-ward, I mene it so,* 
And hom-ward he schal tellen othur tuo, 

l^ii' Of avciitures that ther hau bifalle. 

And which of yow that bereth him best of alle, 
That is to seye, that telleth in this caas 
Tales of best sentence and of solas, 
Schal ban a soper at your alther cost 

^^0 Hei-e in this place sittynge by this post, 

Whan that we comen ageyn from Cauturbery. 
And for to make you the more mery, 
I wol myselven gladly with you ryde, 
Right at myn owen cost, and be youre gyde. 

^O!^ And whoso wole my juggement withseie 
Schal paye for al we spenden by the weye. 
And if ye vouchesaut that it be so, 
Telle me anoon, withouten wordes moo, 
And I wole erely schappe me thcrfore.' 

0/i) This thing was graunted, and oure othus swore 
With ful glad herte, and prayden him also 
That he would vouchesauf for to doon so, 
And that he wolde ben oure governour, 
And of our tales jugge and reportour, 

9/i' And sette a soupcr at a certe}Ti prys; 
And we wolde rewled be at his devys, 

' Tyrwhitt proposes to read, — 

/ mene it o. 
And homward he shall tellen other to, 

in order to reconcile the orijrinal agreement with tlie actual number <'i 
t;il'73 recounted. Hut besides tlie awlvardncss of tlie expression, and 
tht fact that there is no authority for it in the ilSS., it seems much 
preferable to adopt Jlr. Wright's judicious tluory, tliat the poem uaj 
left in an unfinished state by Chaucer at his death, and was arrange<i 
for publication, from detached papers, by his literary executor. 



In hej'gli and lowe ; and thus by oon assent 
We been acorded to bis juggoment. 
And therupon the wjn was fet anoon ; 

9 ^^ We dronken, and to reste wente echoon, 
Withouten eny lengere taryinge. 
A morwe whan that the day bigan to sprynga 
Up roos cure ost, and was oure althur cok/ 
And gaderud us togider all in a flok, 

^ >^ And forth we riden a litel more than paas,'' 
Unto the waterynge of seint Thomas/ 
And there oure ost bigan his hors areste, 
And seyde; ' Lordus, herkeneth if yow leste. 
Ye woot youre forward, and I it you records. 

9^^ If eve-song and morwe-song accorde/ 
Let se now who scbal telle ferst a tale. 
As evere I moote drinke wyn or ale, 
Who so be rebel to my juggement 
Schal paye for al that by the weye is spent. 

^5^ Now draweth cut/ er that we forther twynne; 
Which that hath the schortest schal bygynne.' 
' Sire knight,' quoth he, ' maister and my lord, 
Now draweth cut, for that is myn acord. 
Cometh ner,' quoth he, 'my lady prioresse; 

^HO And ye, sir clerk, lat be your schamfestnesse, 
Ne studieth nat; ley hand to, every man.' 

Anon to drawen every wight bigan, 
And schortly for to tellen as it was, 
Were it by aventure, or sort, or cas, 

1 See ante, p. loi, note 3. 

2 To pace means to walk; a little more than pace will therefore 
mean a little faster than walking, i. e., at a slow trot. 

3 Mr. "Wright says, that the Watering of St. Thomas, mentioned fre- 
quently by the old dramatists, was at the second milestone on the old 
Canterbury -road. 

•• Apparently a proverbial expression alluding to the services of the 
Church, and meaning, if you are resolved in the morning to keep the 
promise made over night. 

5 Draw lots. Froissart calls it, tircr d la longne paille, to draw for 
the long straw. Cut, then, means, the straw cut into dilTerent lengths. 

r»7v t/ ^ 


$l^y) The soth is this, the cut fil to the knight, 

Uf which full glad and blithe was every wight; 
And telle he uioste liis tale as was resoun, 
By forward and liy coinposicioim, 
As ye hau herd; what ueedeth wordes moo^ 

i i)^ An; I whau this goode man seigh that it was so, 
As he that wys was and obedient 
To kepe his forward by his fre assent, 
He seyde : ' Syn I schal bygynne the game, 
What, welcome be thou cut, a Goddus name ! ' 

§6^ Now lat us ryde, and herkueth what I seye.' 

And with that word we ridden forth oure weye; 
And he bigan with right a merle chere 
His tale, and seide right in this manere. 


[TilE outline of this tale is taken from the Thcseida, an 
heroic poem in twelve books by Boccaccio. Tyrwhitt con- 
jectures that a literal translation of the Theseida had already 
appeared from the pen of Chaucer, who enumerates it along 
with his other works in the Legende of Gode Women, mider 
the name of Al the Love oj Palamon and Arcite. This trans- 
lation, if it ever existed, is now lost; but it has reappeai'ed, 
as he supposes, in the Canterbury Tales, concentrated and 
improved in this charming story of chivalry, so appropriately 
narrated by the ' perfight, gentil knight.' 

The origin of the story Is involved in obscurity. T^'rwhitt 
thinks it scarcely credible that it is of Boccaccio's own inven- 
tion; and the assertion of the novelist that he translated it 
into ' vulgar Latin,' meaning Italian, from una antlchissimit 
sforia, he conceives to be a mere literaiy fiction, after the 
maimer of the French writers of romances, who almost alwayn 

' It is cliaracteristic of tho Knight's good breeding an<i knowlcrige 
of tlie world to tell his tale Iroukly aud cheerfully, aud without endea- 
vouring to excuse him;>elf. 


profess to have translated from some old Latin chronicle 
preserved at St. Denys. He inclines to the theory that it is 
of Greek original, and that it assumed its present form as a 
popular romance, after the Norman princes had introduced 
the manners of chivalry into their Sicilian and Italian 

On the other hand, it should be remembered that the 
opening of the Theseida, as well as of the KnigJites Tale, 
and many passages throughout both poems, are palpably 
taken from the Thehais of Statins ; and therefore, in the 
absence of any evidence of the existence of such a romance as 
Tyrwhitt supposes, it does not seem to be claiming too much 
lor Boccaccio's powers of invention, to suppose that he 
adapted to his conception of heroic times, derived from the 
Thehais, the very ordinary plot of rival lovers staldng the 
possession of their mistress on the fortune of single combat. 
The incognito of (Edipus at the court of Laius, and the 
sojourn of Polynlces at that of Adrastus, might have sug- 
gested the idea of Areite's return in disguise to Athens : and 
if the Lady Emilia, in accordance with cliivalrous ideas, be 
substituted for the kingdom of Thebes, and Palamon and 
Arcite for Eteocles and Polynices, the Thehais supplies the 
story at once. If this theory be tenable, the change which 
the story undergoes in its transition from the spirit of the 
old mythology, delighting in the contemplation of a family 
goaded, from generation to generation, by the decrees of fate 
to the commission of incest and murder in then.- most horrible 
forms, to that of Christianity, even when demoralized by 
hatred, jealousy, and war, is deeply suggestive. 

In obedience to the literary canon which requires that every 

epic poem shall consist of twelve books, the Theseida is 

swelled by tedious descriptions, which the English poet, either 

from taste or the necessities of his plan, has happily curtailed, 

or wholly omitted. In the lines — 

His spiryt chaunged was, and wente ther 
As I cam never, I can nat tellen vrher; 
Tlicrefore I stynt. 

Chaucer is supposed by Tyrwhitt to have intended to ridicule 


Boccaccio's pompous description of the passa^'o of Arcite's 
soul to Heaven, and the reader cannot but feel obliged ta 
hiin for abridging the pedantic catalogue given in th(j 
Tlieseida of the heroes of antiquity who took part in the 

Although all readers must appreciate Tyrwhitfs extensive 
learning and zealous industry in illustrating The Canterbury 
Tales from every possible source, few will now agree with his 
criticism on the incongruity of Chaucer's treatment of heroic 
subjects. A story of heroic times, clothed in the costume of 
chivalry, appears to him as incongruous as Macbeth attired in 
the square-tailed coat and knee-breeches of the reign of 
George the Second. But if Chaucer, instead of giving us 
his own conception of how Theseus looked and spoke, and 
how Palamon and Arcite loved and fought, had searched the 
ancients for precedents of heroic speeches, and classic loves 
and combats, it may safely be aGirmed that a new edition 
of The Canterbury Tales would not now be called for. The 
poet's aim should be to give an accurate picture, not necessa- 
rily of scenes as they actually took place, but of the concep- 
tion he had of them in his own mind. In order to move the 
passions of his readers, it is necessary that his descriptions 
should be drawn direct from the stores of his own experience. 
What can be more insipid than a cento from the works of 
the ancients, in which no word or idea is permitted to appear 
unless it be authenticated, so to speak, by classical authority ? 

But it may still be objected, why then lay the scene in 
the heroic, rather than in the chivalrous ages ? And to this 
it may be answered, that the remoteness of the scene enables 
the poet to indulge his fancy with greater freedom, and to 
invest with some degree of verisimilitude adventures which, 
if assigned to the contemporary age, would be rejected as 
improbable. It may be added, also, that the shadowy and 
mysterious forms of periods anterior to authentic history pre- 
dispose the mind to those emotions which it is the poet's 
object to awaken. 

It must be acknowledged that Chaucer, like Shakespeare, 

TOL. I. I 



eared little from whence he obtained the raw material of his 
tales, provided he could impress them with the stamp of his 
own genius. He plagiarises, not only from others, but even 
from himself. This can hardly be attributed to poverty of 
imagination in the author of the House of Fame. It appears 
rather to be an instance of that economy of genius observable 
in the art of the middle ages, when every figure in a picture 
had its distinctive form and attitude, and when even the colour 
of each personage's dress was settled by tradition. The object 
of the artist, whether poet, painter, or architect, was to move 
the passions, not to display his own power of invention ; he 
therefore, without scruple, adopted the historical form, or the 
well-known legend ; and trusted to his mode of treatment, 
within the prescribed limits, for producing his effect. But, 
in truth, the interest of a poem is not in the least impaired by 
the knowledge that the incidents are not the product of the 
poet's own mvention ; on the contrary, if they are supposed to 
be founded on fact, the interest is increased. It is when the 
reader suspects that he is called upon to sympathise with 
feelings and passions which the poet himself never felt, and 
to picture to his imagination usages which the poet him- 
self never realized, that he resents the attempt to impose 
upon him by fine words, and to harrow his soul with emotions 
at second-hand. Such is not Chaucer's plan; the leading 
incidents of the story he has received from others, but the 
conception and working out of the characters are all his own. 
The reader feels convinced that, in Theseus, the poet has given 
his own idea, probably derived from actual observation, of a 
chivalrous monarch, arbitrary from the habit of command, 
and hot-tempered, but generous and easily appeased ; tenderly 
alive to the feelings and weaknesses of others, and endowed 
with that light-hearted gaiety and keen appreciation of 
humour, which are- so often observed to accompany high 
breeding and a noble nature. 

Tyrwhitt, in hi-s matter-of-fact way, has noticed three prin- 
cipal circumstances in which Chaucer, departing from his 
original, has shown his superiority in the knowledge of 



human nature and in poetiral jud^'ment. ' i. By supposing 
Emilia to be seen first by Palamon, he gives him an advan- 
tage over his rival, which makes the catastrophe more cons-o- 
nant to poetical justice. 2. Tlie picture which Boccaccio has 
exhibited of two young princes, violently enamoured of the 
same object without jealousy or rivalship, if not absolutely 
unnatural, is certainly very insipid and unpoetical. 3. As no 
consequence is to follow from their being seen by Emilia at 
this time, it is better, I think, to suppose, as Chaucer has 
done, that they are not seen by her.' He might have added, 
that a strict adherence to the Theseida in this last particular, 
would have deprived Theseus of one capital point in his 
witty reflections upon the folly of lovers.] 

TI7HIL0M, as olde stories tellen us, ^J'^ 

^^ Thex' was a duk that highte Theseus; 

Of Athenes lie was lord and governour, 

And in his tyme swich a conqiierour, 
ff That gi'etter was ther non under the sonne. 

Ful many a riche contre hadde he wonne ; 

That with his wisdam and his chivaliie iUy 

He conquered al the regne of Femyuye,* 

That whilom wtis i-clepcd Cithea ;* 
to And weddede the queen Jpolita, 

And brought hire hoom with him in his contre 

With moche glorie and gret solempnite, f* 7o 

And eek hire yonge suster Emelye. 

And thus with victorie and with melodye 
/6* Lete I this noble duk to Athenes ryde, 

And al his ost, in amies him biside. 

And certes, if it ncre to long to lieere, S T-i' 

I wolde han told yow fully the manere, 

How wonucii was the regne of Femenye 
1.0 By Theseus, and by his chivalrye; 

And of the grete bataille for the nones 

Bytwix Athenes^ and the Amazoncsj j ^^S 

' Kingdom of the Amazons, so called from /(einina, a woman. 
- Scythia. a Athenians. 

I 2 




And how asegid was Ypolita, 
j The faire hardy quyen ot Cithea; 

j %:b' And of the feste that was at hire weddynge. 
And of the tempest^ at hire hoom comynge ; 
%%ir But al that thing I most as now forbere, 

I I have, God wot, a large feeld to ere, 

I And wayke ben the oxen in my plough, 

ho The remenaunt of the tale is long inough • 
' I wol not lette eek non of al this rowte 

$^0 Lat every felawe telle his tale aboute, 

And lat see now who schal the soper wynne, 
And ther I lafte, I wolde agayn begynne. 
3 ar This duk, of whom I make mencioun. 
Whan he was comen almost unto the toun, 
» 7*^ In al his wele and in his moste pryde. 

He was war, as he cast liis eyghe aside, 
Wher that ther kneled in the hye weye 
friO K companye of ladies, tweye and tweye, 
Ech after other, clad in clothes blake ; 
^0^ But such a cry and such a woo they make, 

That in this world nys creature^ lyvynge. 
That herde such another waymentynge. 
My And of that cry ne wolde they never stenten, 
; Til they the reynes of his biidel henten. 

^(fS ' ' What folk be ye that at mjra horn comynge 

Pertovirben so my feste with cryengel' 
Quod Theseus, ' have ye so grot envye 
jno Of myn honour, that thus compleyne and crie? 


1 Tyrwhitt for tempest reads temple, on the authority of two 5ISS., 
and supports his reading by a reference to the ThescUla, wliieli says 
nothing of a tempest, but, on the contrary, states that the passage — 

' Tosto fornito (finito?) fu e senza pene ;' 
whereas Theseus is represented as malcing an offering, on his return, in 
the Temple of Pallas, on the same principle on which the knijrlit 
makes his pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Thomas, on his safe return 
from the wars. Mr. Wright, however, rejects Tyrwhitt's reading, con- 
sidering the MSS. not of sufficient authority. And it must be owned 
that to express a pilgrimage to a temple by the word ' temple' is very 

2 This word is always a trisyllable, as in French. 

'^ r 


Or who hath yow misboden, or offendid? 
C! fO And tflletli ino if it may hen amendid ; 

And -why tliat ye ben clad thus al iu blakl' 
The oldest lady of hem allc spak, 
^'A'When sche had swowned with a dedly chere, 
That it was routhe for to sccu or heere; 
A /y And seyde : ' Lord, to whom Fortune hath geven 

Victorie, and as a conquerour lyven/ 
Nought gi-evcth us youre glorie and honour; 
60 But we besoken mercy and socour. 

Have mercy on oure woo and oure distresse. 
§1,0 Som di-ope of pitee, thurgh youre gentilnesse, 

Uppon \is wrecchede Avommen lat thou falle. 
For certus, lord, ther nys noon of us alle, 
6*' That sche nath ben a duchesse or a queene; 
Now be we caytifs, as it is well seene : 
. , ,- ' Thanked be Fortune, and hire false wheel, 

That noon estat assureth to ben week 
And certus, lord, to abiden youre presence 
70 Here in the temple of the goddesse Clemence 
We han ben waytynge al this fourtenight ; 
%iO Now heljje us, lord, syn it is in thy might. 

I wrecche, which that wepe and waylle thus, 
Was whilom wyf to kyng Capaneus, 
7^~That starf at Thebes, cursed be that day; 
And alle we that lien in this array, 
And maken all this lamentacioun, 
We leften alle oure housbondes at the toun, 
Whil that the sege ther aboute lay. 
io And yet the olde Creon, welaway! 
That lord is now of Thebes the citee, 
^i40 I Fulfilde of ire and of iniquite, 

He for despyt, and for his tp-annye. 
To do the deede bodyes vilonye, 


' Tyrwhitt's reading tobjven, by making ' victory' one foot, improvn 
the metre, though it gives a redundant syllable. It seems iuiponutlt 
to scan the line as it here standi. 



^6' Of alle oure loi-des, wliicli that ben i-slawe. 
Hath alle the bodies on an heep y-drawe, 
And wol not sufFren hem by noon assent 
Nother to ben y-buried nor y-brent, 
But maketh houndes ete hem in despite.' 

(io And with that word, withoute more respite, 
They fillen gruf, and ciiden pitously, 
' Have on us wrecched wommen som mercy, 
And lat om-e sorwe synken in thyn herte.' 
This gentil duke doun from his courser sterte 

^5 With herte pitoixs, whan he herde hem speke. 
Him thoughte that his herte wolde breke. 
Whan he seyh hem so 2:iiteous and so maat, 
That whilom weren of so gret estat. 
And in his armes he hem all up hente, 
lo^ And hem confoi'teth in ful good entente; 
And swor his oth, as he was trewe knight, 
He wolde do so ferforthly his might 
Upon the tyraunt Creon hem to wreke, 
That all the people of Grece scholde speke 
3- How Creon was of Theseus y-served, 

As he that hath his deth right wel deserved. 
And right anoon, withoute euy abood 
His baner he desplayeth,^ and forth rood 

' The displayinp: of the banner was the summons to the troops to 
assemble for military service. So when Charles I. formally dis- 
played the royal standard, he intended by that act to assert his prero- 
gative, denied by the Parliament, of calling out the militia, then the 
only military force of the kingdom. The follovfing description of the 
banner or standard of Richard I. may serve to illustrate this passage. 
' It was formed of a long beam, like the mast of a ship, made of most 
solid ceiled work, on four wheels, put together with joints, bound with 
iron, and to all appearance no sword or axe could cut, or fire injure it. 
A chosen body of soldiers were generally appointed to guard it, espe- 
cially in a combat on the plains, lest by any hostile attack it should be 
broken or fall down; for if it fell by any accident, tlie army would be 
dispersed and put into confusion. For they are dismayed wlien itdoes 
not appear, and think that tlieir general must be overcome by faint- 
lieartedness when they do not see liis standard flying. . . . Xear it the 
weak are strengthened, the wounded soldiers, even those of rank and 
celebrity, who fall in the battle, are carried to it, and it is called the 

/<3f ~ Ihi 


To Tliebes-Tvai'd, ami al his oost bysyde; 

/'^ No uox" Atlieues woUlo ho go ne i"yde, 
Ne take liis ecse lidly half a day, 
But onward ou his waye that nyght he lay; 
And sente anoon Yjwlita the queeue, 
And Emclye hir yongc suster schene, 

/ lit Unto tlic touu of Athenes to dwolle ; 

And forth he vyX; ther is no more to telle. 

The rcede statue of !Mars with .spere and targe 
So schvneth in his wliitc baner larj'e, 
That alle the feeldes' gliteren up and doun; 

1^^ And by his baner was born his pynoun 
Of gold ful riclic, ill which ther was i-bete 
The Minatour which that he slough in Crete. 
Thus ryt this duk, thus ryt this conquerour, 
And in his oost of chevalrie the flour, 

/ 2-6" Til that he cam to Thebes, and alighte 

Fayre in a feeld wher as he thoughte to fighte. 
But schoi-tly for to speken of this thing, 
With Creon, which that was of Thebes kyng, 
He faught, and slough him manly as a knight 

iZo In ])le}ii bataille, and putte his folk to flight; 
And by assaut he wan the cite aftui', 
And rente doun bothe wal, and sj>arre, and raftur; 
And to the ladies he restored agayn 
The bones of here housbondes that were slayn, 

l^if*Yo do exequies, as was tho the gyse. 
But it wer al to long for to devyse 
The grete clamour and the waymentynge 
Which that the ladies made at the brennynge 

' standard,' from its standiiij; a most compact signal to the army.'— 
Itinerary of Richard I. and otiurs to the Holy Land, by GtorrUEV or 


1 The field ia the heraldic term for the f^ound upon which tlie various 
chnrires, as tliey are called, are emblazoned. 1 he banner was large 
and broad, and upon it was emblazoned the knipht's coat of arms. Tlie 
pennon was small, forked, and usually bore his personal device or crest. 
The whole of this description is taken from the Thibau, lib. xii. The 
contrast, and at the same time, the similarity between the lieroic and 
the chivulroua ideas is curious. 

/39- f^^ 


Of the bodj^es, and the grete honour 

ti^o That Theseus the noble conquerour 

Doth to the hidyes, whan they from him wente. 
But schortly for to telle is myn entente. 
Whan that this worthy duk, this Theseus, 
Hath Creon slayn, and Thebes wonne thus, 

/«/jr Stille in the feelde he took al night his reste, 
And dide with al the contre as him leste. 

To ransake in the cas^ of bodyes dede 
Hem for to streepe of herneys and of wede, 
The pilours diden businesse and cure, 

/yw After the bataile and discomfiture. 

And so byfil, that in the cas thei founde, 
Thurgh girt with many a grevous blody wounde, 
Two yonge knightes liggyng by and by, 
Both in oon^ avmes clad ful richely; 

lirft" Of whiche two, Arcite hight' that oon. 
And that othur knight hight Palamon. 
Nat fully quyk, ne fully deed they were, 
But by here coote armure, and by here gere, 
Heraudes knewe hem wel in special, 

/ \^ti As they that weren of the blood real 
Of Thebes, and of sistren tuo i-born. 
Out of the chaas the pilours han hem torn, 
And han hem caried softe unto the tente 
Of Theseus, and ful sone he hem sente 

• Instead of cas in this line, and clmcK in the Knir/Mes Tale, Speght and 
Tynvhitt read tarn, meaning heap, as in modern French tas. Mr. "Wright 
adopts the reading given in the text from the Harl. and other MSS., but 
does not attempt to explain it; nor indeed does it seem capable of a satis- 
factory exphuKition. [Tlie light word is las, which means a heap.— W.W.SJ 

2 Bearing the same coat of arms, which denoted that they belonged 
to the same house. Even in Homer there are indications of the idea of 
coat armour, but it was not until much later that particular coats were 
appropriated to families. This is, therefore, an anachronism, as 13 
indeed the whole iioem. 

3 Preterite tense of the verb to hntcn, to be called. Tyrwhitt, in a 
note upon this word, says, ' It is difficult to determine what part of 
speech it is.' But it appears evidently to be a verb, of neuter form 
and passive signification, exactly analogous to the Latin vapnlo, to \>e 
beaten. The madern German islmssen, with the same meaning, 

/^\f 11^ 


/^i" Tathenes, for to dwellen in prisoiin 
Periietneily, he woldo no r.iiin<x-oun. 
And this iluk wlmu ho IukUIu thus i-doon, 
He took his host, and liom he ryt anoon 
With laun-r crowned as a conqiierour ; 

llo And tliere he lyveth' in joye and in honour 
Ternie of his lyf ; what wolle ye wordes moo? 
And in a tour, in angwische and in woo, 
This Palamon, and his fclawe Arcite, 
For evermo, ther mny no gold hem quyte. 

/ 75" This passeth yeer by yeer, and day by day, 
Till it fel oones in a morwe of May 
That Emclie, that fairer was to seene 
Than is the lilie on hire stalkes grene. 
And fresscher than the May with iioures new&— 

/ to For with the rose colour stroi' hire hewe, 
I not which was the fyner of hem two — 
Er it was day, as sche was wont to do, 
Sche was arisen, and al redy dight ; 
For May wole have no sloggardye a night. 

1^6" The sesoun priketh every gentil herte, 
And maketh him out of his sleepe sterte. 
And seith, ' Ar}-s, and do thin observance.* 
This makcd Emelye han remembrance 
To do honour to May," and for to ryse. 

/^ I-clothed was sche fressh for to devyse. 

' He lyveth must be read as one foot ; another instance of the rule 
80 common in Liitin anil Greek metres, of considering two short unac- 
cented syllables equivalent to one long. 

- The return of genial weather in ilay has invested this month, in 
the customs of all nations, with something of a festive character. — See 
Ovid's Fasti, lib. v. J'he Koman Catholic devotion to the blessed Virgin 
in May, and our own Whitsuntide holidays, are indications of the same 
feeling. It was, until very lately, the customin remote places foryouths 
and maidens to go into the fields before sunrise, and bring home in gay 
procession boughs of trees, with which they decorated tlie church and 
their houses. The .'ilay-pole is not yet (juite abandoned. Stubbs, in 
the Aivatomie of Abuses, i58S, p. 94, says—' Against Male, every parishe, 
towne, and village, assembled themselves together, bothe men, women, 
and children, olde and younge, even all indilferently, and either going 
all together, or dcvidyng themselves into companies, they goe, .-^ome to 



Hire yolwe heer was browdid in a tresse, 
Byliynde hire bak, a yerde long I gesse. 
And in the gardyn at the sonne upriste 
Sche walketh \\]) and doun wher as hire liste. 

/^S~ Sche gadereth floures, partye whyte and reede, 
To make a sotel* gerland for hire heede, 
And as an aungel hevenly sche song. 
The grete tour, that was so thikke and strong, 
Which of the castel was the cheef dongeoun,''' 

^^^yt (Ther as this knightes weren in prisoun, 
Of which I tolde yow, and telle schal) 
Was evene jojTiyng to the gardeyn wal, 
Ther as this Emely hadde hire pleyj^ng. 
Bright was the sonne, and cleer that morwenynge, 

1^5" And Palamon, this woful prisoner, 
As was his wone, by leve of his gayler 
Was risen,' and romed in a chambre on heicrh. 
In which he al the noble cite seieh, 

the woodes and groves, some to the hills and mountaines, some to one 
place, some to another, where they spend all the night in pastimes, and 
in the morninge they return, bringing with them birclie bowes and 
branches of trees to deck their assemblie withalle.' — See also Mid- 
summer KirjM's Dream, Act i., scene i. 

' The Harl. MS. reads certeyn, which seems unmeaning. Sotel is 
from Tyrwhitt, and signities, of course, curiously or subtly braided. 
The twining of garlands of the young branches and flowers always 
formed a principal part of the May-day rites. In a ballad called 
the Milkmaid's Life, printed about 1630, we are told, — 

• Upon the first of May, 
■With garhmds fresh and gay. 
With mirth and music sweet. 
For such a season meet. 
They passe their time away.' 

The dongeoun, sometimes called the donjon keep, from Iceep, which 
meant guard. It was the principal guard of tlie castle, in conse- 
quence of its strengtli. Beneath the kei'i) were the vaults in which 
prisoners were confined, whence the modern acceptation of the word 

3 iVas risen must be considered as one foot for the sake of the metre, 
and the final e in cluxmbre must be elided before the succeeding 

/-^ Y -*'«/• 


And eck the gardeyn, ful of brauuches grene, 
1^0 Tliev as tlio frcsshe Eiuelye tlie schecne' 

Was iu hire walk, aud romed up and doiiix 

This sorweful prisoner, this Palamon, 

Gooth in the chambre roinyng to and fro. 

And to iiimself compleyiiyng of his woo ; 
;,/^That he was born, ful ofte he seyd, alas! 

And so byfel, by aventure or cas, 

That thurgh a wyndow thikke and many a barre 

Of ireu greet anil squar as eny sparre, 

He cast his eyen upon Emelya, 
J, yc And therwithal lie bleynte and cryed, a ! 

As that he stongen were unto the herte. 

And with that crye Arcite anon up sterte, 

Aud seyde, ' Cosyn myn, what eyleth the, 

That art so pale and deedly for to see? 
|,J^ Wliy crydestow?- who hath the doon ofiencet 

For Goddes love, tak al in pacience 

Oure prisoun, for it may non otliir be; 

Fortune hath gevon us this adversite, 

Som wikke aspect or disposicioun 
l^^O Of Satume, by sum constellacioun, 

Hath geven us this, although we hadde it sworn; 

Bo stood the heven wlian that we were born ; 

We moste endure it : this is the schort and pleyn.' 
This Palamon answered, and seyde ageyn, 
%. kf ' Cosyn, for sothe of this opynyoun 

Thou hast a veyn ymaginacioun. 

This prisoun caused me not tor to crye. 

But I was hurt right now thurgh myn yhe 

' In the orthofrraphy of the MS. from which the text is derived, 
ich^ as in modem German, lias the same force as »A. 

* CryJeatow t for criaht thou t So seigtow for sayest thou, slepi.<tow 
for sh'fpest thou. It often happens that the difliculty of understanding 
old English depends entirely upon the orthography; wlien a passage 
therefore appears to he unintelligihlc, an excellent way, sometimes, of 
ascertaining the meaning is to read it aloud, and to be guided entirely 
by the sound, as in reading the Fonetic A'uz. 

^3?- ^/^- 


Into myn herte, that wol my bane be. 
5- ^ r The faimesse of the lady that I see 

Yonde in the gardyn rome to and fro, 

Is cause of my ciyying and my wo. 

I not whethur sche be womman or goddesse; 

But Venus is it, sothly as I gesse.' 

pif 6' And therwithal on knees adoun he fil. 
And seyde : ' Venus, if it be yotire wil 
Yow in this gardyn thus to transfigure, 
Biforn me sorwful v/recched creature, 
Out of this prisoun help that we may scape. 

J, (fO And if so be oure destine be schape 
By eterne word to deyen in prisoun. 
Of oure lynage haveth sum compassioun. 
That is so lowe y-brought by tyrannye.' 
And with that word Arcite gan espye 

^*>^ Wher as this lady romed to and fro. 

And with that sight hire beaute hiu't him so, 
That if that Palamon was wounded sore, 
Arcite is hurt as moche as he, or more. 
And ^vith a sigh he seyde pitously : 

l^(,0 * The freissche beaute sleeth me sodeynly 
Of hir that rometh yonder in the place ; 
And but I have hir mercy and hir grace, 
That I may see hir atte leste weye, 
I nam but deed; ther nys no more to seye. 

j,6^This Palamon, whan he tho wordes herde, 
Dispitously he loked, and answerde: 
* Whether seistow in ernest or in pley ?' 
' Nay,' quoth Arcite, ' in ernest in good fey. 
God helpe me so, me lust ful evele pleye.' 
v,-^^ This Palamon gan knytte his browes tweye : 
' It nere,' quod he, ' to the no gret honour, 
For to be fals, ne for to be traytour 
To me, that am thy cosyu and thy brother 
I-swore^ ful deepe, and ech of us to other, 

'- Formal compacts for the purpose of mutual counsel and assist* 

f I' 


%TS^ That never for to deyen in the payne,* 

Til that dectli departe schul us twayne, 

Keythcr of us in love to hynder other, 

Ne in non other cas, my leeve brother; 

But that thou schuldest trowly forther me 
^%t In every caas, and 1 schal forther the. 

This was thyn othe, and myu eek certayn ; 

I wot right wel, thou dai-st it nat withsayn. 

Thus art thou of my couuseil out of doute. 

And now thou woldest falsly ben aboute 
\,%S^ To love my lady, whom I love and serve, 

And evere schal, unto myn herte sterve. 

Now certcs, fals Arcite, thou sclial not so. 

I loved hir first, and toldo the my woo 

As to my counseil. and to brother sworn 
2^(7 To forther me, as I have told biforn. 

For which thou art i-bounden as a knight 

To helpe me, if it lay in thi might, 

Or elles art thou fals, I dar wel sayn.' 

This Arcite ful proudly spak agayn. 
y^ * Thou schalt,' quoth he, ' be rather fals than L 

But thou art fals, I telle the uttirly. 

nnce in love and were common to the heroic and chivalrous ages. 
Theseus and rcirithous, Acliilk-s and ratroclus, Pylades and Orestes, 
Nysu3 and Eiiryalus, and, in tlic Thebais, Tydcus and I'olyniccs, are 
instances familiar to every one, in the former period ; in tlie latter, 
cxaiapks may be found in innumeraViIe romances. Authentic history 
furnishes many similar cases, of wliich we have an interesting illustra- 
tion in a book entitled Ancient Irish Hiitoriei, in wliich are narrated 
the adventures of Sir .John de Courcy and Sir Arnioric de St. Law- 
rence, Norman kiii;;hts, :iii(l anccstorsof the present Lords Kinsale and 
llowth, to whom Henry II. had granted districts in Ireland, and who, 
in virtue of a compact of this sort, rendered each other valuable assist- 
ance in their continual wars with the wild Irish or kerns. 

' A translation of a French expression. Froissart, quoted by 
Tyrwhitt, relates, that Kdward IIL declared he would not return 
' jusques ii tant qu'il auroit hn de guerre, ou paix a sa sulfisance, cu a 
sou grand honneur; ou it mourroit en la jicinc' — See nUo Jiuir.aiice of 
tht i:ost, vol. iv. p. m'>. 

' All that ye saine i? but in vaine, 
Me were lever die iu the |aiue.' 



For par amour^ I leved hir first then thuw. 

What wolt thou sayn? thou west not yit now 

Whether sche be a womman or goddesse. 
5 <tO Thyn is afFeccioun of holynesse, 

And myn is love, as of a creature ; 

For which I tolde the myn aventure 

As to my cosyn, and my brother sworn. 

I pose/ that thou lovedest hire biforn; 
^ 0^ Wost thou nat wel the olde clerkes' sawe^ 

That who schal geve a lover eny lawe, 

Love is a grettere lawe, by my pan,* 

Then may be geve to eny erthly man? 

Therfore posityf lawe, and such decre, 
3 / f> Is broke alway for love in ech degree. 

A man moot needes love maugre his heed. 

He may nought fle it, though he schulde be deed, 

Al be sche mayde, or be sche widewe or wyf. 

And that it is nat likly al thy lyf 
^ ly To stonden in hire grace, no more schal I ; 

For wel thovi wost thyselven verrily. 

That thou and I been dampned to prisoun 

Pei-petuelly, us gayneth no raunsoun. 

We stryve, as doth the houndes for the boon, 
% ^,0 They foughte al day, and yit here part was noon 

Ther com a kyte, whil that they were wrothe, 

And bar awey the boon bitwixe hem bothe. 

And therfore at the kynges court, my brother, 

Eche man for himself, ther is non other. 
% ^^''JLiOve if the list ; for I love and ay schal j 

And sothly, leeve brother, this is al. 

1 In the way of love. You loved her as a matter of religion, sup- 
posing her to be the goddess Venus. The expression to love, paramour, 
was also used in contradistinction to chaste love ; hence the modern 
eubstantive paramour. 

- Je pose, I put it, that is, I suppose, for the sake of argument. 

3 The ' clerke ' is Boethius, and the proverb is taken from his 
De Consolatione, lib. iii. met. iz: — 

• Quis legem det amantibus ? 
Major lex amor est sibi.' 

* By my pan means brain-pan or skull. 

a 1^1 *^^ 


Eke in this jn-isoun inoote we endure, 

Ami f vt.'iy of us take liis aventurc' 

Gret was the stryf and long bytwixe hem tweje. 
^ it^ If that I hadde leysir for to seye; 

But to the ellect. It happed on a day, 

(To telle it yow as schortly as I may) 

A worthy duk that highte Perotheus, 

That folaw' wa-s to tlie duk Theseus 
J^i' Syu thilke day tliat they were children lyte, 

Was come to Atheues, his felawe to visite, 

And for to pley, as he was wont to do, 

For in this world he loved noman so : 

And he loved him as tendurly agayn. 
J ^ t? So wel they loved, as olde bookes sayn, 

That whan that oon was deed, sothly to telle. 

His felawe went and sought him doun in helle/ 

But of that story lyst me nought to write. 

Duk Perotheus loved wel Arcite, 
hl^^ And hadde him knowe at Thebes yeer by yeer; 

And fynally at requeste and prayer 

Of Perotheus, withoute any raunsoun 

Duk Theseus him leet out of prisouu, 

Frely to go, wher him lust over al, 
J ^P In such a g}'se, as I you telle schal. 

This was the forward, pla}Tily to endite, 

Betwixe Theseus and him Arcite: 

That if so were, that Arcite were founde 

Evere in his lyf, by daye or night, o stound 
^^'iTlu eny centre of this Thesevis, 

And he were caught, it was acorded thus, 

' Brother in arms. See nn/c p. 124, note i. ' Theseus did not only 
release him (IVirithou?) of nil the dainape he had done, hut retjuestt-d 
him he would become liis friend and brother in arms. Hereupon they 
were presently sworn brothers in the Held.' — Plutarch, Lives, trans- 
lated by Sir Thomas North, Knipht, 1C31. 

- An allusion to Tluseus accompanying Peirithous in his expedition 
to carr>' oil Proserpina, daughter of Aidoneus, king of the Molossians, 
ivhen both were taken prisoners, and Peirithous torn in pieces by the 
dog Cerberus. — Plutakcu, 'J'liaeus. 



That with a swercl he scholde lese his heed ; 

Ther nas noon other remedy ne reed, 

But took his leeve, and homward he him spedde; 
S^O Let him be war, his nekke lith to wedde.^ 
How gi-et a sorwe suffreth now Arcite ! 

The deth he feleth thorugh his herte smyte ; 

He weepeth, weyleth, cryeth pitously; 

To slen himself he wayteth pryvyly. 
}bb' He seyde, ' Alias the day that I was born ! 

Now is my prisoun werse than was biforne ; 

Now is me schape eternally to dwelle 

Nought in purgatorie, but in helle.' 

Alias! that ever knewe I Pei-otheus! 
J 7^ For elles had I dweld with Theseus 

I-fetered in his prisoun for evere moo. 

Than had I ben in blis, and nat in woo. 

Oonly the sight of hir, whom that I serve, 

Though that I hir grace may nat deserve, 
3 "jS Wold han sufficed right ynough for me. 

O dere cosyn Palamon,' quod he, 

' Thyn is the victoire of this aventure, 

Ful blisfully in prisoun to endure; 

In prisorm? nay, certes but in paradys! 
^ ^ Wei hath fortune y-tomed the the dys, 

That hath the sight of hir, and I the absence. 

For possible is, sjti thou hast hir presence, 

And art a knight, a worthi and an able. 

That by som cas, syn fortune is chaungable, 
J ^5' Thou maist to thy desir somtyme atteyne. 

But I that am exiled, and bareyne 

Of alle grace, and in so gret despeir, 

That ther nys water, erthe, fyr, ne eyr, 

Ne creature, that of hem maked is. 
i^O That may me helpe ne comfort in tliis. 

Wei ought I sterve in wanhope and distresses 

Farwel my lyf and al my jolynesse. 

' Lies in pledge. Wad is still used provincially in tliis sen.^9. 
* In purgatory there is hope of redemption ; not so in hell. 

%/ I v^ 


Alias, why playncn folk so in comune 

3f purveauce ot" CIo<i, or of fortune, 
^^y That geveth hem ful ofte in many a gyse 

Wei better than thoi can hernself devyse? 

Soui man desircth for to liave richesse, 

That cause is of his morthre or gret seeknesse. 

And som man wolde out of his prisoun fayn, 
Li^X} That in his hous is of his mayne slayn. 

Infinite harmes ben in this mateere; 

We wote nevere what thing we prayen heere. 

"We fareu as he that dronke is as a mows. 

A dronke man wot wcl he hath an hous,* 
t^t'yLut he not nat which the righte wey is thider, 

And to a dronke man the wey is slider, 

And certes in this world so faren we. 

We seeken faste after felicite, 

But we gon wrong ful ofte trewely. 
mC Thus may we seyen alle, namely I, 

That wende have had a gret opinioun, 

That gif I mighte skape fro prisoun. 

Than had I be in joye and parfyt hele, 

Ther now I am exiled fro my wele. 
(jI$ Syn that I may not se yow, Emelye, 

I nam but deed ; ther nys no remedye.' 
Uppon that other syde Palamon, 

Whan he wiste that Arcite was agoon, 

Such sorwe maketh, that the grete tour 
(fl^ Eesowneth of his yollyng and clamour. 

The pure" feteres of his schynes grete 

Weren of his bitter salte teres wete. 

' Alias !' quod he, ' Arcita, cosyn myn, 

Of al oure strif, God woot, the fruyt is thin. 

• This is also from r.oothius, Tie Consolalione, lib. iii., thus translated 
by Chaucer. ' But 1 rcturne again to the studies of men, of whiclj men 
the corage ahvay reherseth and seeketh the soveraine pood, al he it so 
that it be witli a dyrked memory ; but he not by which pathe, rii;>U as 
a ilronkcn man vote nought by tchich jMthe he may rttttrne home to his 

• The very fetters. So in the Duchess, vol. ii. p. 404, the ' pure deth.* Aud 
in Fierce the Vloughman's Crede, 1. 217, 'otixpure pore man.' 

VOL. I. K 


LflS Thow walkest now in Thebes at thi large, 
And of my woo thou gevest litel charge. 
Thou maiste, sya thou hast wysdom and manhede, 
Assemble al the folk of oure kynrede, 
And make a werre so scharpe in this cit6, 
Li it That by som aventure, or by som trete, 

Thou mayst hire wynne to lady and to wyf, 
For whom that I most needes leese my lyf. 
For as by wey of possibilite, 
Syn thou art at thi large of prisoun free, 

^^^'And art a lord, gret is thin avantage, 

More than is myn, that sterve here in a kage. 
For I moot weepe and weyle, whil I lyve, 
With al the woo that prisoun may me gyve, 
And eek with peyne that love me geveth also, 

L{HO That doubleth al my torment and my wo.' 
Therwith the fuyr of jelousye upsterte 
Withinne his brest, and hent him by the herte 
So wodly, that lik was he to byholde 
The box-tree, or the asschen deed and colde. 

Hklf Tho seyde he ; ' O goddes cruel, that governe 
Thi-s world with byndyng of yom-e word eterne, 
And writen in the table of athamaunte 
Youre parlement and youre eterne graunte. 
What is mankynde more to yow holde 

Ult'O Than is a scheep, that rouketh in the folde ? 
For slayn is man right as another beste, 
And dwelleth eek in prisoun and arreste. 
And hath seknesse, and greet adversite, 
And ofte tymes gilteles, parde. 

U$B What governaunce is in youre prescience. 
That gilteles tormenteth innocence % 
And yet enci-eceth this al niy venaunce. 
That man is bounden to his obsa^vii-^^iice 
For Goddes sake to letten of his wille, 
Uho Ther as a beste may al his lust fullille. 

And whan a beste is deed, he ne hath no peyne; 
But man after his deth moot wepe and pleyne. 


Though in this world he have care and woo : 

Withouteu douto it may stondo so. 
U^b" The answer of this I lete to divinis, 

But well I woot, that in this world gret pyne is. 

Alias ! I se a serpent or a theef, 

That many a trewe man hath doon mescheef, 

Gon at his large, and whor him lust may tume. 
L( yc But I moste be in prisoun thurgh Saturne, 

And eek thorugh Juno, jalous' and eke wood, 

That hath destruyed wel neyh al the Mood 

Of Thebes, with his waste walles wyde. 

And Venus sleeth me on that other syde 
i^7S For jelousye, and fere of him Arcyte.' 
Now wol I stynte of Palamon a Ute, 

And lete him stille in his prisoun dwelle, 

And of Aj-cita forth than wol I telle. 

The somer passeth, and the nijihtes lonjxe 
t/>^ Encrescen double wise the peynes stronge 

Bothe of the lover and the prisoner. 

I noot which hath the wofiillere cheer. 

For schortly for to sey, this Palamon 

Perpetuelly is dampned to prisoun, 
i^jS In che\Ties and in feteres to be deed ; 

And Arcite is exiled upon his heed 

For evere mo as out of that contr6, 

Ne nevere mo he schal his lady see. 

Now lo^'yeres axe I this question,* 
^^^Who hath the worse, Arcite or Palamon? 

That on may se his lady day by day, 

But in prisoun he moot dwelle alway. 

That otlier may wher him lust rj'de or go, 

But seen his lady schal he never mo. 

• Jealons, because of Jupiter's love of Semele, dunghter of Cadmus, 
founder of Thebes, and of the devotion of the Thebans to Bacchu?, 
the fruit of the amour. 

- Mr. Wri^iht, in a note upon the place, says, that this is an allusion 
to the nicdixval Courts of Love, in which such questions were seriously 

K 2 


Now deemeth as you luste, ye that can, 
For I wol telle foi-tli as I bigan. 

Whan that Arcite to Thebes come was, 
Ful ofte a day he swelde and seyde alas, 
For seen his lady schal he never mo. 
And schortly to concluden all his wo. 
So moche sorwe had never creature, 
That is or sehal whil that the world wol dure. 
His sleep, his mete, his drynk is him byraft. 
That lene he wexe, and drye as eny schaft. 
His eyen holwe, grisly to biholde ; 
His hewe falwe, and pale as asschen colde, 
And solitary he was, and ever alone, 
And dwelljmg all the night, making his moone. 
And if he herde song or instrument. 
Then wolde he wepe, he mighte nought be stent; 
So feble were his spirites, and so lowe. 
And chaunged so, that no man couthe knowe 
His speche nother his vois, though men it herde. 
And in his gir,^ for all the world he ferde 
Nought oonly lyke the lovers maladye 
Of Hereos,^ but rather lik manye, 
Engendrud of humour melencolyk, 
Byforne in his selle fantastyk.^ 

' In his manner he appeared not like an ordinary lover, but like a 
madman, whose brain is disordered by bile. 

^ ' Whereas some copies have Hercos, some Hermes, and some such 
like counterfeit word, whereof can be given no reason, I have get down 
JSros, i. e., Cupid, as most agreeing, in my opinion, with the matter, 
which I gather thus. Lucian, in his second dialogue, bringeth in Cupid 
teaching Jupiter how to become amiable, and in him how lovers may 
\)ecorae acceptable to their ladies; not by weeping, watching, and 
fasting, nor i>y furious melancolicke fits, but by comely behavioui".' — S. 
It is thus rendered by Dryden : — 

' Unlike the trim of love and gay desire; 
But full of muscful mopings, ' 

lEreos, or ITereos, is a false genitive of Gk. epco9, love, or ' Cupid.' — W. W. S.] 
3 In the forehead, where Ls situated the cell of the brain in which 
the fancy resid&s. So it appears that Dr. Spurzheim might appeal, in 
support of his ' science of phrenology,' to the natural philosophy of the 
middle ages. 


And schortly turned was al up-so-doun 

Bothe abyt and eek disposicioun 

Of liim, this woful lovore daun Arcite. 

What schulde I alway of his wo endite 1 

Wlian he endured hadde a veer or tuoo 

This cruel torment, and this peyne and woo, 

At Thebes, in his centre, as I seyde. 

Upon a night in sleep as he him Icyde, 

Him thought that how the -wenged god Mercurie 

Byforn him stood, and bad him be murye. 

His slepy yerd^ in hond he bar upright ; 

An hat he wered upon his heres Vjright. 

Arrayed was this god (as he took keepe) 

As he was whan that Argous" took his sleep ; 

And seyde him thus : 'To Athenes schalt thouwende; 

Tlier is the schapen of thy wo an ende.'^ 

And with that word Arcite wook and sterte. 

' Now trewely how sore that me smerte.' 

Quod he, 'to Athenes right now wol I fare ; 

Ne for the drede of dcth schal I not spare 

To see my lady, that T love and serve ; 

In hire presence I recclu; nat to sterve.' 

And with that word he caught a gret myrour, 

And saugli that chaunged was al his colour, 

And saugh liis visage was in another kynde. 

And right anoon it ran him into mynde. 

That seththen his face Avas so disfigured 

Of maladie the which he hath endured, 

He mighte we!, if that he bar him lowe, 

Lyve in Athenes evere more unknowe, 

And see his lady wel neih day by day. 

And right anon he chaunged his aray. 

And clothed him as a pore laborer. 

And al alone, save oouly a squyer, 

1 The Caduceus. 

2 Sec Ovid's Mdamorph., lib. i., line 714- 

» Wtere an cud of thy wot is shaped, or contrived, for theo. 


That knew his pryvyte and al his cas, 

Which was disgysed povrely as he was, 

To Athenes is he go the nexte way. 

And to the court he went upon a day, 

And at the gate he profred his servyse, 

To drugge and drawe, what so men wolde devysa 

And schortly of this matier for to seyn, 

He fel in office with a chambirleyn, 

The which that dwellyng was with Emelye. 

For he was wys, and couthe sone aspye^ 

Of every servaunt, which that served here. 

Wei couthe he hewe woode, and water here, 

For he was yonge and mighty for the nones, 

And therto he was strong and bygge of bones 

To doon that eny wight can him devyse. 

A yeer or two he was in this servise, 

Page of the chambre of Emelye the bright ; 

And Philostrate^ he seide that he hight. 

But half so wel beloved a man as he 

Ne was ther never in court of his degree. 

He was so gentil of his condicioun, 

That thorughout al the court was his renoun. 

They seyde that it were a charity 

That Theseus would enliaunsen his degree, 

And putten him in worschipful servyse, 

Ther as he might his vertu excersise. 

And thus within a while his name spronge* 

Bothe of his dedes, and of goode tonge. 

That Theseus hath taken him so neer 

That of his chambre he made him squyer, 

' This appears to mean — lie knew how to watch, or espy, opportuni- 
ties of recommending himself to his master, sooner tlian any servant 
In the family. 

- Tyrwhitt says, tliat in the Tlics-cula, Arcitc assumes the name of 
Penthmo, and conjectures that the name of Pliilostrate was suggested by 
Boccaccio's poem, entitled Philistrato, or by one of the characters in 
the Decameron. In t)ie Midsummer Kirjht's Dream, a Philostrate is also 
introduced as a favourite servant of Tlieseus. 

3 His good name began to spring up ; a beautiful metaphor froni 
the growth of plants. 


f» r 

And gaf him gold to mayntene his degree : 
Aud ffk men lirouglit liiin out of his countiu 
Flu yeer to yev ful pnvyly his rente ; 
But honestly and sleighly he it spente, 
That no man wondred how that he it liadde. 
And thre yeer in this wise his lyf he ladde, 
And bar him so in pecs and eek in werre, 
Ther nas no man that Theseus hath so derre. 
Aud in thisblisse lete I now Arcite, 
And spcke I wole of Palamon a l}-te. 

In derknes orrible and strong prisoun 
This seven yeer hath seten Palamon, 
Forpyncd, what for woo and for destresse, 
"Who feleth double sorwe and he\'ynesse 
But Palamon ] that love destreyneth so, 
That wood out of his witt he goth for wo ; 
And eek therto he is a prisoner 
Perpetuelly, nat oonly for a yeer. 
Who couthe ryme in Englissch propurly 
His martirdam 1 for sothe it am nat 1 ; 
Therfore I passe as lightly as I may. 
It ful that in the seventhe yeer in May 
The thriddo night, (as olde bookes seyn, 
That al this storie tellen more pleyn) 
"Were it by aventure or desten6, 
(As, whan a thing is schapcn, it schal be,) 
That soone allur the mydnyght, Palamon 
By helpyng of a freend brak his prisoun, 
And flet'th the cite fast as he may goo, 
For he hath give drinke liis gayler soo 
Of a clarre,' maad of a certayn wati, 
With nercotykes and opye of Thebes fyn, 
That al that night though that monwolde him schake. 
The gayler sleep, he mighte nought awake. 

' Spiced wine, pivcn to pucsts ilip last thing before goinp to betl, t« 
promote sleep. The red wine of bonlenux, being generally used for 
thi!i purpose, at length obtained exclusive possession of the nanie of 



And thus he fleeth as fast as ever he may. 

Tlie night was schort, and faste by the day, 

That needes cost^ he moste himselven hyde, 

And til a grove ther faste besyde 

\\"ith dredful foot than stalketh Palamon. 

For schortly this was his opynyoun, 

That iu that grove lie wolde him hyde al day, 

And in the night then wolde he take his way 

To Thebes-ward, his frendes for to preye 

On Thesevis to helpe him to werreye. 

And schortelich, or he wolde lese his lyf, 

Or wynnen Emelye unto his wyf. 

This is theffect of his entente playn. 

Now wol I tome unto Arcite agayn, 

That litel wiste how nyh that was his care, 

Til that fortune hath brought him in the suaro. 

Tlie busy larke, messager of daye, 
Salueth in hire song the morwe gray ; 
And fyry Phebus ryseth up so bright, 
That all the orient laugheth of the light. 
And with his stremes dryeth in the greves 
The silver dropes, hongyng on the leeves. 
And Ai'cite, that is in the court ryal 
With Theseus, his squyer principal, 
Is risen, and loketh on the mery day. 
And for to doon his observance to May,' 
Eemembryng of the poynt of his desire, 
He on his courser, stertyng as the fire, 
Is riden into feeldes him to pleye, 
Out of the court, were it a myle or tweye. 
And to the grove, of which that I yow tolde, 
By aventure his wey he gan to holde, 
To make him a garland of the greves. 
Were it of woodewynde or hawthorn leves. 

' Apparently a proverbial expression of the same signification at; 
needs must. It occurs in the Leg. of Gode Women.— 

' Or, needes coste, tliis thing mote have an end.' 
• See ante, p. 121, note a. 


And lowdo he song ;iLjens tlic sonne schcene : 

' 3Iay, with all thyu tloiu-cs and thy grccne, 

Welcome be thou, wel faive tVeisschc May, 

I hope that I som grene gete may." 

And tVo his courser, witli a lusty herte, 

Into the grove ful lustily he sterte, 

And in a pathe he romed up and doun, 

Ther by aventure this Palamoun 

Was in a busche, that no man niiglit him see. 

Ful sore afered of his deth was he, 

Nothing ne knew he that it was xircite : 

God wot he wolde have trowed it ful lite. 

For sotli is seyde, goon ful many yeres, 

That feld hath eyen, and the woode hath eeres.* 

It is ful fair a man to here him evene, 

For al day lueteth men atte unset stevene.* 

Ful litel woot Arcite of his felawe, 

That was so neih to herken of his sawe, 

For in the busche he stynteth now ful stille. 

Whan that Arcite had romed al his fille, 

And songen al the roundel lustily, 

Into a studie he fel sodeynly, 

As doth thus lovers in here queynte geeres, 

Now in the croppe, now doun in the breres,* 

Now up, now doun, as boket in a welle. 

Right as the Friday, sothly for to telle, 

Now it schyneth, now it reyneth faste, 

Right so gau gery Venus overcaste 

The hertes of hire folk, right as hir day' 

Is gerful, right so chaungeth hix'e aray. 

' This is a singularly bald conclusion to his song, for which, and loi 
the two following lines, the only excuse is Horace's 'Bonus dormitat 

^ A proverbial expression, rendered into mediaeval Latin. ' Campus 
habet lumen, et habct nemus aiiris acumen.' 

■* It is right that men bear themselves warily at all times, for it liap- 
pens every day that they meet when tliey least expect it, witliout 
making an appointment. 

■* Ao(o in the croppe, now at the top of the wood, in high spirits ; now 
in the breres, now low on the ground among the briars, dcpressud. 

^ Friday, sacred to the tiaxon goddess Friga, corresponding to the 


Selde 13 the Fryday al the wyke i-like. 

Wlian that Arcite hadde songe, he gan to sike. 

And sette him doiin withouten any more : 

' Alas !' quod he, ' that day that I was lx)re 1 

How longe Juno/ thurgh thy cruelte 

"NViltow werreyen Thebes the citee 1 

Alias ! i-brought is to confusioun 

The blood royal of Cadme and Amphioun ; 

Of Cadynus, the which was the furst man 

That Thebes bulde, or first the toun bj^gan, 

And of that cite first was crowned kyng, 

Of his lynage am I, and his ofspring 

By vorray lyne, and of his stok ryal : 

And now I am so caytyf and so thi-al, 

That he that is my mortal enemy, 

I serve him as his squyer povrely. 

And yet doth Juno me wel more schame, 

For I dar nought byknowe myn owne name, 

But ther as I was wont to hote Arcite, 

Now hoote I Philostrate, nought worth a myte. 

Alias ! thou felle Mars, alias ! Juno, 

Thus hath youre ire owre lynage fordo. 

Save oonly me, and wrecchid Palamon, 

That Theseus martyreth in prisoun. 

And over all this, to slee me utterly, 

Love hath his fyry dart so brennyngly 

I-stykid thorugh my trewe careful lierte. 

That schapen was my deth erst than my scherte.* 

classical Aphrodite or Venus. The superstitions opinion that Friday 
is unlucky appears to have had a Christian orijrin, being the day on 
vhich the Kedeemer was cruciiicd. Tlie proverb, 'Friday's moon, 
come when it will, it comes too soon,' is an instance of thia feeling. In 
the next line gerfid, meaning changeable, which is the reading of the 
two Cambridge MSS., has been adopted, instead of grkjal. 

1 See ante, p. i3i,notc i. 

2 My death was doomed from the moment I was born, even before I 
was clothed. Tyrwliitt says, it seems to mean the linen in which a 
new-born babe is M,Tapi)ed. Compare Ja:;/. of Code Women, vol. iii. p. jgS :— 

'Sens first that day tliat .shapen was my sherte. 
Or by the fatal suster had my dome." 


Ye slen me with youre eyhcn, Emelye ; 

Ye bon the cause wlierfore that I dye. 

Of al the remenant of al inyu other care 

Ne sette I nought the mountaunce of a tare, 

So that I couthe do ouglit to youre plesaunce.' 

And with tluit word he fcl douu in a traunce 

A louge tyme ; and aftirward upsterte 

This Palainon, that thouglite thurgh his herte 

He felt a cold swerd sodo}niliche glyde ; 

For ire he quook, he iiohle no lenger abyde. 

And whan that he hath herd Arcites tale, 

As he were wood, with face deed and pale, 

He sterte him up out of the bussches thikke, 

And seyd : * Arcyte, false traitour wikke, 

Now art thou lient, that lovest my lady so, 

For whom that I liave al this peyne and wo, 

And art my ])lood, and to my couusoil sworn, 

As I ful ofte have told the heere b}ibrn. 

And hast byjaped here the duke TheseuSj 

And falsly chaunged hast thy name thus ; 

I wol be deed, or elles thou schalt dye. 

Thou schalt not love my lady Emelye, 

But I wil love hire oonly and no mo; 

For I am Palamon thy mortal fo. 

And though that I no wepen have in this place, 

But out of prisoun am y-stert by grace, 

I drede not that other thou schalt dye, 

Or thou ne schalt not love Emelye. 

Chese which thou wilt, for thou s-chalt not asterte.' 

This Arcite, with ful despitous herte. 

Whan he him knew, and had his tale herde. 

As fers as a lyoun pulleth out a swerde, 

And seide thus : ' By God that sitteth above, 

K ere it that thou art sike and wood for love, 

And eek that thou no wepne hast in tliis j)lace, 

Thou schuldest never out of this grove pace,' 

' The Ilarl. 3Ii*. ri'inl.-*, But out of prison art y-stert by <irua\ which 
probably arose Iroin a mistake of the scribe, who, seeing that the prft- 


That thou ne schuldest deyen of myn hond. 
For I defye the seurte and the bond 
Wliich that thou seyst I have maad to the. 
For, verray fool, thenk that love is fre ; 
And I wol love hire mawgre al thy might. 
But, for thou art a gentil perfight knight, 
And wenest to dereyne hire by batayle, 
Have heere my trouthe, to morwe I nyl not faylo, 
Withouten wityng of eny other wight, 
That heer I wol be founden as a knight. 
And bryngen harneys right inough for the ; 
And ches the best, and lef the worst for me. 
And mete and drynke this night wil I bryng 
Inough for the, and cloth for thy beddyng. 
And if so be that thou my lady wynne, 
And sle me in this wood that I am inne, 
Thou maist wel have thy lady as for me.' 
This Palamon answereth, ' I graunt it the.' 
And thus they ben departed til a-morwe, 
Whan ech of hem had leyd his feith to borwe. 

Cuj^ide, out of al charite! 
O regne, that wolt no felaw have with the ! 
Ful soth is seyde, that love ne lordschipe 
Wol not, his thonkes,^ have no felaschipe. 
Wel fynden tlmt Arcite and Palamoun. 
Arcite is riden anon to the toun, 
And on the morwe, or it were day light, 
Ful prively two harneys hath he dight, 
Bothe sufficaunt and mete to darreyne 
The batayl in the feeld betwix hem tweyne. 
And on his hors, alone as he was born, 
He caryed al this harneys him byforn; 
And in the grove, at tyme and place i-sette, 
This Arcite and this Palamon ben mette. 

vious line was a repetition of one tliat had occurred just before, thought 
that the next line was to be rejjoatod also. — W. 

1 With his goodwill. In otlur passage.s, liir t?ia»l-cs; with their 
;C00d will. So, observes Tyrwliitt, in the Stur. Citron, p. 243 : — ' Sume 
htre thankes, and sume here unthankcs; aliqui libmter, et aliqui ingraiis. 


Tho chaimgen gan here colour in here face. 

Iiiglit as the houter in the regne of Trace' 

That stondetli in the gappe witli a spere, 

Whan honted i.s the lyoiin or tlie here, 

And hereth him come riisshyng in tlie grevea, 

And brekcth bothe the bowes and the leves, 

And theuketh, * Hero cometh my mortcl enemy, 

Withoute faile, he mot be deed or I ; 

For eyther I mot slen him at the gappe, 

Or he moot slee me, if it me myshappe :' 

So ferdcn they, in chaungyng of here hew, 

As fcr as e}'ther of hem other knewe. 

Ther nas no good day, ne no saluyng ; 

But streyt -withouten wordes rehersyng, 

Every of hem helpeth to armcn otlier, 

As frondly as he were his owen brotlier ; 

And thanne with here scharpe speres stronge 

They fojTiieden ech at other wonder longe. 

Tho it semed that this Palamon 

In his fightyng Avere as a wood lyoun. 

And as a cruel tygre was Arcite : 

As wilde boores gonne they togeder smyte. 

That frothen white as fome for ire wood. 

Up to the ancle they faught in here blood. 

And ill this wise I lete hem fightyng welle; 

And fortliere I wol of Theseus telle. 

The destine, mynistre general. 
That executeth in the world over al 
The purveans, that God hath seye byfom ; 
So stx'oug it is, tliat they' the world had sworn 

1 This fine simile appears to liavc been taken from the Thfbais, lib. 
Iv., 494. The passage is Riven, that tlio reader may see how Chaucer 
has excelled the Latin poet: — 

• Qualis Ga:tula: stabulantem ad confrapa sylvte 
Venator longo niotum claniore leoncm 
Expectat. tirmans animiini, et sudantia nisu 
Tela premcns. Gelat ora pavor, gressusfiue tremiscunt, 
Quis veniat, quantusqiio; scd horrida signa prementis 
Accipit, ct metitur murmura cura.' 

2 They is written for thougli. Sir Harris Xicolas cites this passage 


The contrary of a thing by ye or nay, 

Yet som tyme it schal falle upon a clay 

That falleth nought eft in a thousend yeero. 

For certeynly oure appetites heere, 

Be it of werre, of pees, other hate, or love, 

Al is it reuled by the sight above. 

This mene I now by mighty Theseus, 

That for to honte is so desirous, 

And namely the grete hert in May, 

That in his bed ther daweth him no day, 

That he nys clad, and redy for to ryde 

With liont and horn, and houndes him byside. 

For in his hontyng hath he such delyt, 

That is his joye and his appetyt 

To been himself the grete herts bane. 

For after Mars he serveth now Diane. 

Cleer was the day, as I have told or this, 
And Theseus, with alle joye and blys. 
With his Ypolita, the fayre queene, 
And Emelye, clothed al in greene, 
On honting be they riden ryally. 
And to the grove, that stood ther faste by, 
In which ther was an hert as men him tolde, 
Duk Theseus the streyte wey hath holde. 
And to the launde he rydeth him ful right, 
There was the hert y-wont to have his flight, 
And over a brook, and so forth in his weye. 
This duk wol have of him a cours or tweye 
With houndes, which as him lust to comaunde. 
And whan this duk was come into the launde. 
Under the sonne he loketh,^ right anon 
He was war of Arcite and Palamon, 

as a proof of Chaucer's belief in predestination, meaning, apparently, 
the doctrine of absolute decrees. It proves his belief in God's provi- 
dential government of the world, wliich is a very different tiling. 

' This passage is an example of Chaucer's power of description. We 
think we must have actually witnessed the scene. Theseus rides into 
the forest glade, or lawn, in which I'alamoii and Arcite are tiglifing; 
then, seeing and hearing something unusual, but indistinctly, ho shades 


That fougliten breeme, as it were boores tuo; 

The brighte swenles wente to aud fro 

So hidously, that with the leste strook 

It seemetli as it wokle felle an ook ; 

But what they were, notliiug yit he woot. 

This duk with spores his courser he smoot, 

Aud at a stcrt lie was betwixt liem tuoo, 

And pullid out a swerd aud cride, * Hoo ! ' 

Nomore, up pcyne of leesyug of your heed. 

By mighty Mars, anon lie soiial be deed, 

That sinyteth eiiy strook, tliat I may seen! 

But telleth me what mestir men ye been, 

That ben so hardy for to tighten heere 

Withoute jugge or otlier otHcore,' 

As it were in a lyste really /' 

This Palamon answerde hastily, 

And seyde: ' Sire, what nedeth wordes mo? 

We han the deth deserved Ijothe tuo. 

Tuo woful wrecches been we, and kaytyves. 

That ben encombred of om-e o^vne ly ves ; 

And as thou art a rightful lord and juge, 

Ne geve us neyther mercy ne refuge. 

And sle me first, for seynte charity ; 

But sle my felaw eek as wel as me. 

Or sle him first ; for, though thou kuowe him lytc. 

This is thy mortal fo, this is Arcite, 

That fro thy loud is bauyscht on his heed. 

For which he hath i-served^ to be deed. 

his eyes \vith his hand from the Rlaro of the Rnn, and, IxHjomiiig aware ot 
the state of the case, he puts spurs to his horse, and dashes in between the 

' The exclamation used by the heralds to stop the fight. — See poit, 
p. 170, note 1. 

- The trial by battle, beinp; a legal mode of settling a dispute between 
gentlemen, and to be conducted by a proi)er judjie and olficer, it was, 
of course, considered an olfunce and high contempt of the laws to figlit 
without observing formalities. 

3 For i-served, Spcght and Tyrwhitt read deserved. The iensc is the 
same in both cases. 


For this is he that come to thi gate 

And seyde, that he highte Philostrate. 

Thus hath he japed the many a yer, 

And thou hast maad of him thy cheef squyer. 

And this is he that loveth Emelye. 

For sith the day is come that I schal dye, 

I make pleynly my coufessioun, 

That I am the woful Palamoun, 

That hath thy prisoun broke wikkedly. 

I am thy mortal foo, and it am I 

That loveth so hoote Emely the bright, 

That I wol dye present in hire sight. 

Therfore I aske deeth and my juwyse; 

But slee my felaw in the same wyse, 

Tor bothe we have served to be slajm.' 

This worthy duk answerde anon agajTi, 
And seide, ' This is a schort conclusioun : 
Your owne mouth, by your owne confessioun, 
Hath dampned you bothe, and I wil it recorde. 
It nedeth nought to pyne yow mth the corde. 
Ye schul be deed by mighty Mars the reedel'* 
The queen anon for verray wommanhede 
Gan for to wepe, and so dede Emelye, 
And alle the ladies in the company e. 
Gret pite was it, as it thought hem alle, 
That evere such a chaunce schulde falle ; 
For gentil men thi were and of gret estate, 
And nothing but for love was this debate. 
And saw here bloody woundes wyde and sore j 
And alle they cryde lesse and the more, 
' Have mercy, Lord, upon us wommen alle !' 
And on here bare knees anoon they falle. 
And wolde have kissed his feet right as he stood. 
Til atte laste aslaked was his mood ; 

> Mara is called red from the colour of blood, in wliich he is sujh 
posed to delif-'lit. Tlie planet remarkable for its redness was called 
Mars on account of its colour. 


For pitc renneth sone in gentil herte. 

And thoui^h he fii"st for ire quok and sterte, 

He luith it al considered in a clause, 

The trespas of hem botlic, and hei-e cause : 

And althoufjh his ire here gylt accused, 

Yet in liis rcsoun he hem bothe excused ; 

And thus he thought that every maner man 

Wol help himself in love if that he can, 

And eek delyver himself out of prisouu. 

And eek in his hort had compassioun 

Of wommen, for they wepen ever in oon ; 

And in his gentil hert he thought anoon, 

And sothly he to himself seyde : ' Fy 

Upon a lord that wol have no mercy, 

But be a lyoun bothe in word and dede, 

To hem that ben in repentaunce and di-ede, 

As wel as to a proud clispitious man, 

That wol raaynteyne that he first bigan. 

That lord hath litel of disci-ecioim, 

That in such caas can no divisioun ; 

But wayeth pride and humblenesse after oon, 

And schortly, whan his ire is over gon. 

He gan to loke on hem with eyen light,* 

And spak these same wordes al in hight. 

' The god of love, a ! henedicile^ 

How mighty and how gret a lord is he ! 

Agayne his might ther gajnieth nou obstacle, 

He may be cleped a god of his miracle ; 

For he can maken at his owen gyse 

Of ever herte, as him lust devyse. 

Lo her is Arcite and Palamon, 

That quytely were out of my prisoun, 

And might have lyved in Thebes ryally, 

And witeu I am here mortal enemy. 

' Cheerful looks. 

- Benedicile is the first word of the Sotvf of the Three Children in the 
old ofTices said at Lauds, and in the book of Common Prayer at morning 
service, and is commonly used to cxpregs adminitiun. 

VOL. I. L 


And that here cletla litli in my miglit also, 

And yet hatli love, maugre here eyghen tuo, 

I-broiight hem hider bothe for to dye. 

Now loketh, is nat that an heih folye ] 

Who may not be a fole, if that he love 1 

Byholde for Goddes sake that sitteth above, 

Se how they blede ! be they nought wel arrayed ? 

Thus hath here lord, the god of love, hem payed 

Here waores and here fees for here servise. 

And yet wenen they to ben ful wise, 

That serven love, for ought that may bifalle. 

But this is yette the beste game of alle. 

That sche, for whom they have this jelousye, 

Can hem therfore as moche thank as me.^ 

Sche woot no more of al tliis hoote fare, 

By God, than wot a cuckoo or an hare. 

But all moot ben assayed hoot or colde ; 

A man moot ben a fool other yong or olde ; 

I woot it by myself ful yore agon ; 

For in my tyme a servant was I on. 

And sythen that I knewe of loves peyne. 

And wot how sore it can a man destreyne. 

As he that hath often ben caught in his lace, 

I you forgeve holly this trespace. 

At the i-equest of the queen that kneleth heere, 

And eek of Emely, my suster deere. 

And ye schullen bothe anon unto me swere, 

That never ye schiillen my corowne dere,^ 

Ne make werre on me night ne day. 

But be my freendes in alle that ye may. 

1 you forgeve this trespas every dele.' 

And they him swore his axyng fayi'e and wele, 

1 Can means literally tnoirs; here it means to acknowledge an obli- 
gation. In the T/icseida, Emilia is made to see the lovers when they are 
first enamoured of her in tlie garden. Chaucer's plan is an improve- 
ment, were it only because it gives him an opportunity of putting this 
witty speech in the mouth of Theseus. 

' Dere means literally to injure, or to harm. The meaning of the 
expression here is, to undertake any enterprise against my royal 


And him of lordscliip and of mercy prayde, 

And lie lieni graiiutcd niorcy, and thus he saj'de : 

* To spoke of real lynage and riches, 

Tliough that sche wei-e a queen or a prynces, 

Ilk of vow bothe is worthy douteles 

To wedde when tyme is, but natheles 

I speke as for my suster Emelye, 

For whom ye have this stryf ancl jelousye, 

Ye woot youreself sche may not Avedde two 

At oones, though ye faughten ever mo : 

That oon of yow, or be him loth or leef, 

He may go pypen in an ivy leef;* 

This is to say, sche may nought have bothe, 

Al be ye never so jelous, ne so lothe. 

For-thy I put you bothe in this degre, 

That ilk of you schall have his destyne,' 

As him is schape, and herkeu in what \vyse ; 

Lo here your eude of that I schal devyse. 

My wil is this, for playn conclusioun, 

Withouten eny repplicacioun, 

If that you liketh, tak it for the best, 

That every of you schal go wher him lest 

Frely withouten raunsouu or daungeer ; 

And this day fyfty wykes, fer ne neer, 

Everich of you schal bryng an hundred knightes, 

Armed for lystes up at alle rightes 

Al redy to dorayne hir by batayle. 

And thus byhote I you withouten fayle 

Upon my troutlie, and as I am a knight, 

That whethir of yow bothe that hath might, 

' This appears to be a proverbial expression, like ' he may go blow 
In a horn,' meaning he may console himself witli any frivolous amuse- 
ment he pleases. It occurs in the Destruction of Thebes, I'art II., by 
Lydgate : — 

• But let his brother blowe in an horn. 
Where that him list, or pipe in a reede.' 

Uow any one was to pipe in an ivy leaf is not so clear. 

- In the trial by buttle, nhieli was supposed to be an appeal to the 
judgment of God. . 

L 2 


This is to seyn, that whethir he or thou 
May with his hundred, as I spak of now, 
Sle his contrary, or out of lystes dryve, 
Him sclial I geve Emelye to wyve, 
To whom that fortune gevetli so fair a grace. 
The lyste schal I make in this place, 
And God so wisly on my sowle rewe, 
As I schal even juge ben and trewe. 
Ye schul non othir ende with me make, 
That oon of yow schal be deed or take. 
And if you thinketh this is wel i-sayde. 
Say youre avys, and holdeth yow apayde. 
This is youre ende and youre couclusioun.' 
Who loketh lightly now but Palamoun ? 
"Who spryngeth up for joye but Arcite 1 
Who couthe tell, or who couthe endite. 
The joye that is made in this place 
Whan Theseus hath don so fair a grace 1 
But down on knees wente every wight. 
And thanked him with al here hertes miht, 
And namely the Thebanes ofte sithe. 
And thus with good hope and herte blithe 
They taken here leve, and hom-ward they ryde 
To Thebes-ward, with olde walles wyde. 
I trow men wolde it deme necligence, 
If I forgete to telle the dispence 
Of Theseus, that goth so busily 
To maken up the lystes rially. 
And such a noble theatre as it was, 
I dar wel say that in this world ther nas. 
The circuite ther was a myle aboute. 
Walled of stoon, and dyched al withoute. 
Round was the schap, in manor of compaas, 
Ful of degre,^ the height of sixty paas, 
That whan a man was set in o degre 
He letted nought his felaw for to se. 

' Seats placed one above another, in the manner of steps or degreot, 
M in an amphitheatre. 


Est-warJ thcr stood a gate of marbul whit, 
West-ward such another in opposit. 
And .schortly to conchule, s\ich a ])hice 
Was non in crthe in so litel S]iace. 
In al the lend thor nas no craftys man, 
That geometry or arsmetrike can, 
Ne jiortreyour, ne korvcr of ymagcs, 
Tliat Theseus ue gaf heni mete and wages 
The theatre for to maken and devyse. 
And for to don his right and sacrihse,* 
He est-ward liath upon the gate above, 
In worschip of Venus, goddos of love, 
Don make an auter and an oratory ; 
And west-ward in tliu mynde and in memory 
Of Mai-s, he hath i-maked such another. 
That coste largely of gold a fother. 
And north-ward, in a toret on tlie walle, 
Of alabaster whit and reed coralle 
An oratory riche for to see, 
In woi-schip of Dyane, goddes of chastity. 
Hath Theseus i-wrought in noble wise. 
But yit had I forgeten to dev'yse 
The nobil kervyng, and the purtrctures. 
The schap, the contynauuce of the figures, 
That weren in these oratories thre. 

Furst in the temple of Venus thou may se 
Wrought in the wal, ful pitous to byholde, 
The broken slepes, and the sykes colde ; 
The sacred" teeres, and the waymeutjiig ; 
The fu}iy strokes of the desiryng, 

' See ante, p. 147. note 3. — The plan of the lists is taken strictly from 
that of a classical ampliitheatrcsuch as it is described in Tertullian, Ue 
SpectariUis. Upon this subject Mr. Currcy, in his vahiable edition of fliis 
treatise, remarks : — ' The giimes of tlie circus were introduced with a 
religious procession, and sacritices to the idols, placed in vast numbers 
within the circus. Tlie blood shed at the gladiatorial shows was sup- 
posed to propitiate the god Dis, whose altar was in the an»phitheatre. 
The theatre was expressly dedicated to Venus, being ajmejced to a 
temple oj that gcxUlesa.' 

2 Secret. 


That loves servauntz in her lyf enduren : 
The othes/ that hei' covenantz assiiren. 
Plesance and hope, desyr, fool-hardynesse, 
Beaute and youthe, baudeiy and richesse, 
Charmes and sorcery,^ lesynges and flateiy, 
Dispense, busynes, and, 
That werud of yolo gnldes a gerland, 
And a cukkow^ sittyng on hire hand ; 
Festes, instrumentz, carols, and daunces, 
Lust and array, and al the circumstauncea 
Of love, which I rekned and reken schal, 
Ech by other were peynted on the wal. 
And mo than I can make of mencioun. 
For sothly al the mount of Setheroun,* 
Ther Venus hath hir principal dwellyng, 
Was schewed on the wal here portraying,' 
With alle the gardyn, and al the lustynes. 
Nought was forgete ; the porter Ydelnes, 
Ne Narcisus the fayr of yore agon, 
Ne yet the foly of kyng Salamon, 
Ne eek the grete strengthe of Hercules, 
Thenchauutementz of Medea and Cerces, 
Ne of Turnus the hard fuyry corage. 
The riche Cresus caytif in servage. 
Thus may we see, that wisdom and riches, 
Beaute ne sleight, strengthe ne hardynes, 

1 The Harl. MS. reads ' The othes, that by her covenantz assuren ;• 
but ' by' has been omitted in the text, following Speght and Tyrwhitt 

- Sorcenj, the true reading has been restored by Mr. Wright. Tyr- 
whitt reads force. The use of charms for procuring love is very ancient 

See TlIEOCRITUS'S <l>ap|U.aKei;Tptai. 

3 A cuckoo is the emblem of unfaithfulness to the marriage vow. It 
is frequently alluded to by the Elizabethan writers, and supplies the 
burthen of many songs. — See Love's Labour Lost, Act v., sc. 2. 

■* Citlijeron, sacred to Venus. 

5 Chaucer in this description has before him a church of the time in 
which he lived. Wlicn tlie whitewash is removed from the walls of 
our village churches, tlioy are generally found to have been covered 
with fresco paintings of Scripture subjects. 


Ne may with Venus liolde champartye,' 

For as sche lustc the world than may sche gye. 

Lo, all this folk i-caught were iu hire trace, 

Till they for wo ful often saytle alias. 

Sutficeth this ensaniple con or tuo, 

And though I couthe roken a thouscnd mo. 

The statu of Venus, glorious for to see, 

Was naked fletyiig iu the large see, 

And fro the navel doun all covered was 

With wawes greue, and bright as eny glas. 

A citole in hire right hand hadde sche, 

And on hir heed, ful seuiely on to see, 

A rose gaidand ful swete and wel smellyng, 

And aboven hire heed dowves fleyng. 

Biforn hir stood hir sone Cupido, 

TJpon his schuldres were wyuges two ; 

And blyud he was, as it is often scene ; 

A bowe he bar and arwes fair and kene.' 

WTiy schuld I nought as wel telle you alls 

The portraiture, that was upon tlie walle 

Within the temple^ of mighty Mars the reede 1 

Al peynted was the "w^al in length and breede 

' Champarty is a legal tenn signifying a conspiracy, in which one 
party agrees to help nnothcr to obtain an estate, on condition that, if 
obtained, it is to be divided between tlitm. The meaning lierewill be, 
that wisdom and riches and the rest, though all conspiring together, 
cannot maintain a cause against Venus. 

- The Harl. M.S. reads jirccne. 'Ihe reading in the text, which i* 
evidently the true one, is that of some other .'MtjS., and is followed by 

3 The description of the Temple of Mars is derived from the TTiebais, 
lib. vii., 40. The introduction of familiar images of crime and suf- 
fering into this fine symbolical picture is objected to by Tyrwhitt, 
Scott, and other critics, as incongruous; and Jlr. ^Vrigllt, in extenua- 
tion of the incongruity, suggests tliat it arises from the confusion In 
the media;val mind between the god JIars and the planet of that name, 
which was supposed to shed its intluencc on these undignitied callings 
and calamities. This is true as far as it goes, but it only removes the 
ditliculty one step; for why should the butcher, the barber (or surgeon), 
the pickpurse, and all sanguinary ml.>ichances, be supposed to be under 
the inUuence of the planet Mars, unless they were held to be pleasing to 


Like to the estres of the grisly place, 

That hight the gret tempul of Mars in Trace/ 

In that colde and frosty regiovm, 

Ther as Mars hath his sovereyn manciovin. 

First on the wal was peynted a forests, 

In which ther dwelled neyther man ne beste, 

With knotty knarry bareyn trees olde 

Of stubbes scharpe and hidous to byholde ; 

In which ther ran a swymbul in a swough," 

As it were a storme schuld bcrst every bough : 

And downward on an hil under a bent, 

Ther stood the tempul of ]\Iarz armypotent,* 

the god Mars ? If, however, the subject be carefully considered, it will ap- 
pear that Chaucer's is really the more sublime idea, and the truer symbol- 
ism. He paints no common-place picture of the ' pomp and circumstance 
of glorious war' — this may do for a tournament — but describes the geniug 
of war as it manifests itself in the malignant passions wliich lead to 
strife and bloodshed : in the spirit of covetousness, which, contami- 
nating commonwealtlis no less than individuals, generates hatred and 
contention ; and in the development, even by tlie lower animals, of 
those evil propensities which become the more revolting when tlicy 
assume the character of instincts. If some images seem at first siglit 
ludicrous, such as the cook scalded for all his long ladle, let it be re- 
membered, as a principle of art, how miicli the grotesque adds to the 
horror with whicli the sight of suffering atfects the mind. Dryden, who 
rightly deemed himself informed by Chaucer's spirit, has hardly at all 
refined or elevated that grotesqueness, because he knew the power of 
familiar images. Neither magnitude nor remoteness, which are held to 
be elements of the sublime, strikes the imagination so forcibly as ex- 
amples drawn from every-day experience. The general description of 
a battle is less impressive than tlie details of a single death ; and the 
dignified fall of C»sar in the Senate-house produces less terror than 
the execution of a common malefactor, Tlie poet's object Is to depict 
suffering in hideous and ordinary forms, in order to display the univer- 
sality of the influence of the god, not only in great occurrences, but 
in the meanest incidents of life. 

^ The principal temple of Mars is described in the Thehais as being 
in Thrace, because of the warlike spirit of the inhabitants. 

- Speght and Tyrwhitt, after some MSS., read roinhle, and aswoiifih. 
The reading in the text is from the Harleian MS., followed by Mr. 
Wright, who, however, furnishes no exjilunation of it. The swymbid, or 
sighing, heard through the general swouffh, or commotion, is finely 

'■^ This line has a redundant syllable, which makes it necessary to 
read tempul of as one foot. Dryden, with a just appreciation of its merit, 
has retained it, only thus correcting the irregularity of the metre ;— 
• The temple stood of Mars armipotent.' 


Wrought al of burned steel, of which thentrn 

Was long and streyt, and gastly for to seo. 

And tliorout came a rage and suche a prise,* 

That it nuuid al tlie gates for to rise. 

The northen light" in at the dore schon, 

For ^v^•ndo^v on tlie walle ne was tlier noon, 

Thorngh the which men might no light disccrue. 

The dores wer alle ademauntz eterne, 

I-clenched overthward and endelong 

With iren tough ; and, for to make it strong, 

Every piler the tempul to susteene 

Was tonne greet, of iren* bright and schene. 

Ther saugh I furst the derk ymaginyng 

Of felony, and al the compassyng; 

The cruel ire, as reed as eny gleede ; 

The pikepurs, and cek the pale drede ; 

The smyler with tlie kuyf under liis cloke; 

The schipne brenuyng v/ith the blake smoke; 

The tresoun of the murtheryng in the bed;* 

The open werres, with woundes al bi-bled ; 

Contek with bloody knyf, and scharp manace. 

Al ful of chirkyng was that sory place. 

' .Spojrht read's, tnch a rape and a vise ; Tyrwhitt, swiche a vise. The 
mcaiiin;,' of the readiiiff in tlio text is not obvious. [The ripht readin;; is 
itst. ^'lov^j^d by imprtus in tho Kllcsinore MS., and apparently from the same 
."■onrce as pheeze. The A.-S../'(i« means iin|>etuous, and X.-ii. fysan U to riisli, 
to drive; cf. Swed. fi'sa, to drive, 'lliu.s uejc means a rush, a-* of a bhi-^t. 
Jn the nc.\t lino the ri;,'lit reading is rcse, to .sliake, to rattle. The reading 
rite makes nonsense. — \V. W. jj.j 

* Aurora borcalis. 

I,.cditur adversum Thcebi jubar, ipsaqne sedem 

Lux timet, et dims contristat sidera fulgor. — Thelais, vil., 4S. 

I'ynvliitt docs not notice the idea of the temple being illumined by the 
northern light, as derived from the Thiseida ; Chaucer, therefore, is 
probably entitled to the full credit of this fine image. 

3 The poet probably had in his mind a Norman cathedral, with its 
roimd massive piers, so different from the light elegant clustered shafts 
of the architecture uf his own time, and so appropriate to the temple of 
the stem god of arms. 

'* In allusion to the Daiioidae. 


The slcer of himself yet saugh I there, 
His hei-te-blood hath bathed al his here ; 
The nayl y-dryve in the schode a-nyght ;^ 
The colde deth, with mouth gapyng upright. 
Amyddes of the tempul set mischaunce, 
With sory comfort and evel contynaunce. 
I saugh woodnes" laiighying in his rage; 
Armed comphaint, outhees, and fiers outrage.* 
The caroigne in the busshe, with throte y-corve: 
A thousand slaine, and not of qualme y-storve; 
The tiraunte, with the preye by force y-raft; 
The toun destroied, ther was no thynge laft. 
Yet sawgh I brente the schippes hoppesteres ;* 
The hixnte strangled with the wild beres : 
The sowe^ freten the child right in the cradel ; 
The cook° i-skalded, for al his longe ladel. 

1 An allusion, perhaps, to the deatli of Sisera. — Judges, iv. 

5 Laetusque furor. — Thebais, vii. 

3 The Harl. MS. reads— 

' The hunt strangled with wilde bores corage,' 
which is evidently corrupt, for the boar does not strangle, but rips up 
his pursuer ; and the same words are applied immediately afterwards 
with greater propriety to the bear. Tyrwhitt's reading, wliich is more 
consonant with the accurate character of Chaucer's imagery, is tlierefore 
adopted in the text. The poet probably had in his mind the predatory 
incursions of the boraerers of England and Scotland, whicli often 
involved the two countries in feuds, such as led to the battle of Chevy 
Chase or Otterbourne. The word oufhee>!, meaning outcry, is from the 
barbarous Latin Hutes'mm, and enters into the composition of our 
expression, ' Hue and cry,' and, indeed, of outcry. 

■* Bellatrices carina;. — Thebais. Speght interprets this word pilots 
(gubernaculum tenentes) ; Tyrwhitt,/em«?e dancers, applied to ships as 
dancing on the waves. None of the commentators appear to have 
met the word elsewhere. 

5 This is not an uncommon accident in countries where the swine 
are allowed to roam at large, as was usual witli ou.- Saxon ancestors, 
»nd in Ireland at the present day. Dryden has not improved upon the 
passage by rendering it — 

' Tlic now-born babe by nurses overlaid.' 

•i We have here an illustration of tlie time wlien men lived in large 
communities, and cookery was performed on a grand scale, as when tlie 
whole garrison of a feudal castle, or an entire brotherhood of mouk^ 
la an abbey, dined together in the common hall. 


Nought beth forgeten the infortuue of Mart : 

Tlie cai-tcr* over-rvdcn with his cart, 

Under the "svhel I'ul lowe ho ]iiy adoim. 

Ther wer also of Martz divisiinin, 

The barbour,'' and the bowcher, and the smjth, 

That forgeth scharpe swerdes on his stith. 

And al a]>ove dcpcpited in a tonr 

Saw I conquest sittyng in gret honour, 

With the scharpe swerd over his heed 

Hangj'nge by a sotil twjTie thrced.' 

Depeynted was ther the shiuglit of Julius, 

Of grete Nero, and of Anthonius ; 

Al be that ilke tyme they were unborn, 

Yet was here deth depeynted ther byforn, 

By manasyng of !Mai*tz, riglit by figure, 

So was it schewed right in the purtreture 

As is depeynted in sterres above, 

Who schal be slayn or elles deed for love. 

Sufficeth oon ensample in stories olde, 

I may not reken hem alle, though I wolde. 

The statue of Mars upon a carte stood, 
Armed, and loked grym as he were wood; 
And over his heed ther schyneth two figures 
Of sterres, that been cleped in scriptures, 
That oon Puella, that othur Rubins.* 
This god of armes was arayed thus. 

' Et vacui CUITU3, protritaque curribus ora. — Thebaii. 

2 The barber in the middle aRcs exercised the ofiice of blood 
letter and chirurgeon gcniTally: hence one of the mercantile com 
panics iu the Corporation of London i? still called the Barber-surgeoi.3 
Company. The pole, usually fixed out.side barbers' shops, ' was lo show 
that the master of the shop practised surgery, and could breathe a vein 
ai well as mow a beard ; such a staff being to this day, by every 
villajre practitioner, put into the hand ot a patient undergoing the 
operation of phlebotomy.' — Antuiiiarian I!ej>osUory. 

3 Apparently an allusion to the sword of Damocles. 

•* The names of two figures in gcomancy, representing two constel- 
lations in Heaven. I'uella signitieth Mars retrograde, and Kubeus 
aiars direct. — S. 


A wolf ther stood byforn him at his feet 

With eyen reed, and of a man he eet ; 

With sotyl pencel depeynted was this storie. 

In redoutyng of Mars and of his glorie. 
Now to the temple of Dyane the chaste 

As schortly as I can I wol me haste, 

To telle yon al the descripcionn. 

Depeynted ben the walles iip and down, 

Of huntyng and of schamefast chastity. 

Ther saugh I how woful Calystope,^ 

Whan that Dyane was agreved with here, 

Was turned from a womman to a here, 

And after was sche maad the loode-sterre ; 

Thus was it peynted, I can say no ferre ; 

Hire son is eek a sterre, as men may see. 

Ther sawgh I Dyane" turned intil a tree, 

I mene nought the goddes Dyane, 

But Peneus doughter, the whiche hight Dane. 

Ther saugh I Atheon^ an hert i-maked, 

For vengance that he saugh Dyane al naked; 

I saugh how that his houndes han him caught, 

And freten him, for that they knew him naught. 

Yit i-peynted was a litel forthermore. 

How Atthalaunce* huntyd the wild bore. 

And Melyagre, and many another mo. 

For which Dyane wrought hem care and woo. 

Ther saugh I eek many another story. 

The which me list not drawe to memory. 

This goddes on an hert ful hye seet, 

With smale hoimdes al aboute hire feet, 

And undernethe hir feet sche had the moone, 

Wexyng it was, and schulde wane soone. 

In gaude grcene hire statue clothed was, 

With bowe in hande, and arwes in a cas. 

' Callisto, a daughter of Lycaon, king of Arcadia.-^See OviD'S 
Fasti, ii. 153. - Dapline. — OviD's Metamorph., i., 450. 

3 Actaeon. — Ovid's Metamorph., iii., i 38. 
* Atalanta. — Ovio's Metamorph., x., 56o. 


Hir eyghen caste sclie ful lowe adoun, 

Ther Pluto hath liis derke re!;^^!!!. 

A wonunau tmvailyng^ was liiro hiforn, 

But for hire child so longe was unborn 

Ful pitously Lucyna gau sche calle, 

And seyde, ' Help, for tliou mayst best of alle.' 

Wei couthe he peynte lyfly that it wrought, 

With many a floren he the hewes bought. 

Now been thise listes maad, and Theseus 
Tliat at his grete cost arayed thus 
Tiie temples and the theatres every del, 
Whan it was don, it liked him right wel. 
But st}Tit I wil of Theseus a lite, 
And spcke of Palamon and of Arcite. 

The day approcheth of her attournyng,* 
That every schuld an hundred knightes bryng, 
The batail to dcrreyne, as I you tolde ; 
And til Athenes, her covenant to holde, 
Hath eveiy of hem brought an hundred knightes 
Wol armed for the werre at alle rightes. 
And sikcrly ther trowed many a man 
That never, siththen that this world bigan. 
For to speke of knighthod of her bond, 
As fer as God has maked sea or loud, 
Nas, of so fewe, so good a comf)any. 
For every wight that loveth chyvalry. 
And wold, his thankes,' have a passant name, 
Hath preyed that lie might be of that game ; 
And wel was him, that therto chosen was. 
For if ther fclli! to niorsve such a c;ias, 
I knowe wel, that evoiy lusty knight, 
That loveth paramours, and hath his might. 
Were it in Engclond, or elloswhere, 
They wold, here thankes, wilne to be there. 

' Diann, when invoked aa the goddess presiding over child-birth, 
was called Lucina. 

- Speghtajid Tyrwhitt read, rettirnhig. 3 gee ante, p. 140, note 1. 


To figlite for a lady ; benedicite / 
It were a lustv sisrlite for to see. 
And right so ferdeu they with Palamon. 
With him ther wente kiiyghtes many oou ; 
Some wol ben armed in an haburgotin, 
In a bright brest plat and a gypoun ; 
And som wold have a peyre plates large ; 
And som wold have a Pruce scheld, or a targe; 
Som wol been armed on here legges weel, 
And have an ax, and eek a mace of steel. 
Ther nys no newe gyse, that it nas old. 
Armed were they, as I have you told, 
Everich after his owen opinioun. 

Ther maistow^ se comyng with Palamoun 
Ligurge himself, the grete kyng of Trace ; 
Blak was his berd, and manly was his face. 
The cercles of his eyen in liis heed 
They gloweden bytwixe yolw and reed, 
And lik a gxiffoun loked he aboute, 
With kempe heres on his browes stoAvte; 
His lymes gi'eet, his brawnes hard and stronge, 
His schuldres brood, his armes rounde and longe. 
And as the gyse was in his contre, 
Ful heye iipon a chare of gold stood he, 
With foure white boles in a trays. 
In stede of cote armom' in his harnays, 
With nales yolwe, and briglit as eny gold. 
He had a here skyn, cole-blak for old. 
His langc heer y-kempt byhynd his bak, 
As eny raven fether it schon for blak.^ 
A wrethe of gold arni-gret, and huge of wight, 
Upon his heed, set ful of stoones bright, 
Of fyne rubeus and of fyn dyamauntz. 
Aboute his chare wente white alaimz,* 

' Mayest thou. — Sec. ante, p. ii3, notez. - For blackness. 

^ SiJCglit interprets afa?M?3, greyhounds; Tyrwhitt, mastill's. The 
latter was apparently misled liy the fact that the wolf-dog, generally 
known by the name of the Jriah greyhound, because used most recently 


Twenty and mo, aa grete as eny stere, 
To liuute at the lyoun or at tlio licre, 
Aud folwed him, with niosL-l fast i-boiinde, 
Colerd with golde, and torette.-. I'yled roundo. 
An bundled lindes had he in his route 
Armed ful wel, with hcrtes stern and stoute. 

With Arcita, in stories as men tynde, 
The gi'et Emetreus, the kyng of Ynde, 
Uppon a steede bay, trappeil in steel. 
Covered with cloth of gold dyapred wel, 
Cam rydyng lyk tlie god of armes ]\Iars. 
His coote armour was of a cloth of Tai-s, 
CowcLed of perlys why te, round and grete. 
His sadil was of brend gold newe bete ; 
A mantelet upon his schuldre hangyng 
Bret-ful of rubies reed, as lir spare! \ug. 
His ciispe her lik rynges was i-ronne, 
And that was yalwe, and gliterjnig as the sonne. 
His nose was heigh, his eyen were cytryne, 
His lippes rounde, his colour was sangwyn, 
A fewe freknes in his face y-spreynd, 
Betwixe yolwe and somdel blak y-meynd, 
And as a lyoun he his lokyng c;iste. 
Of fy ve and twenty yeer Lis age I caste. 
His herd was wel bygonne for to sprynge ; 
His voys was as a trumpe thundeiynge. 
Upon his heed he wered of hiurer grene 
A garlond freisch and lusty for to sene. 
Upon his bond he bar for his delyt 
An egle* tame, as eny lylie whyt. 

In that country, ia called by Buflbn U matiji. It was a dog of great 
jwwtT and swiftness, of which specimens were preserved till within 
a few years by gentlemen of fortune as curiosities. 

' The rage fur hawking reached so great a height in the middle apt?, 
that falcons wore carried on the fist and petted on the most solemn 
occasions, and when not wanted for tlie sport. Tliere arc many 
examples of kings requiring so many falcons as ransom or trilmte. To 
make Kmetrius carry ii tame eagle on his hand must, however, be an 
exaggeration, intended to give an idea «f the gigantic strcngtli and 


xVn liundred lordes had he with him ther, 

Al armed sauf here hedes in here ger, 

Ful richely in alle maner thinges. 

For trusteth wel, that dukes, erles, kyngei, 

Were gadred in this noble companye, 

For love, and for encres of chivalrye. 

Abonte the kyng ther ran on every part 

Ful many a tame lyoun and lepart. 

And in this wise thes lordes alle and some 

Been on the Sonday to the cite come 

Aboute prime, and in the tonn alight. 

This Theseus, this duk, this worthy knight, 

Whan he had brought hem into his cite, 

And ynned hem, everich at his degi'6 

He festeth him, and doth so gret labour 

To esen hem, and do hem al honour. 

That yit men wene that no mannes Avyt 

Of non estat that cowde amenden it. 

The mynstralcye, the servyce at the feste. 

The grete giftes to the most and leste, 

The riche aray of Theseus paleys, 

Ne who sat first ne last upon the deys, 

What ladies fayrest ben or best daunsyng, 

Or which of hem can daunce best or sing, 

'Ne who most felyngly speketh of love ; 

What haukes sitten on the perche above, 

What houndes lyen in the floor adoun : 

Of al this make I now no mencioun ; 

-But of theffect ; that thinketh me the bests ; 

Now comth the poynt, and herkneth if you leste. 

The Sonday night, or day bigan to springe. 
When Palamon the larke herde synge, 
Although it were nought day by houres tuo, 
Yit sang the lai-ke, and Palamon also 

etature of the Indian king, and the strangeness of his tastes. The same 
remark applies to his being accompanied by manf/ tame lioas and 


With holy heile, and with an heih corage 
He roos, to wondt-'ii on liis j>ilgryinagt. 
Unto tlie blistul Cithei-a benijiue, 
I nu'ne Venus, lionorulilo and digne. 
Anil iu hire' hour he walketh forth a paas 
Unto the lystes, ther hir temple was, 
And doun he kueleth, and, with humble cheer 
And herte soi-e, he seide i\s ye sclial heer. 

' Fairest of faire, o lady myii Venus, 
Doughter of Jove, and spouse to Vulcanus, 
Tliou glader of the mount of Citheronn, 
For thilko love tho\i haddest to Adeouu' 
Have pite on my bitter teeres smerte. 
And tak myn humble prayer to thin Jierte. 
Alias ! I ne have no lansajre for to telle 
Theffectes ne the tormentz of myn helle ; 
Myn herte may myn harmes nat bewreye ; 
I am so confus, that I may not scye. 
But mercy, lady bright, that knowest wel 
]My thought, and felest what harm that I fel, 
Consider al this, and rew upon my soi-e. 
As wisly as I schal for evermore 
Enforce my might thi trewe servant to be, 
And holde wen-e alday with chastite ; 
That make I njyn avow, so xe me helpe. 
I kepe nat of armes for to yelpe.* 

' In a lonp note upon this place, Tyrwhitt quotes from the Kalen- 
drier di Bcrgiers, published in the year iSoo, from which it appean 
that the hours of the day were assigned to the several planets in the 
following order: — Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sol, Venus, Slercury, Luna. 
The first iiour after sunrise belonged to the phmet which gave its name 
to the day ; in tliis case, biing Sunday, the first hour belonged to .^ul. 
Now, if the hours be counted, it will be found that the twenty-second, or 
two hours before sunrise on Monday morning, at which time Pulanion s..t 
out for the Temple, belonged to Venus ; and that Arcite and Emily 
were equally accurate in observing the proper hours for their several 

- Adonis. 

3 1 care not to whine about success in arms, spoken in contempt of 
mere glory. 

VOL. L „ 


Ne nat I aske to morn, to have victori^ 

Ne renoun in this caas, ne veyne glorie 

Of pris of armes, blowyng up and doun, 

But I wolde have ful possessioun 

Of Emelye, and dye in thi servise ; 

Fynd thou the maner how, and in what wyse. 

I recche nat, but it may better be, 

To have victorie of him, or he of me, 

So that I have my lady in myn armes. 

For though so be that Mai-s be god of armes, 

And ye be Venus, the goddes of love, 

Youre vertu is so gret in heven above, 

Thy temple wol I worschipe evermo, 

And on thin auter, wher I ryde or go, 

I wol do sacrifice, and fyres beete. 

And if ye wol nat so, my lady sweete, 

Than pray I the, to morwe with a spere 

Tliat Arcita me thurgh the herte bere. 

Thanne rekke I nat, whan I have lost my lyf, 

Though that Arcite have hir to his wyf. 

This is thelTect and end of my prayere ; 

Gif me my love, thou blisful lady deere.' 

Whan thoi'isoun was doon of Palamon, 

His sacrifice he dede, and that anoon 

Ful pitously, with alle circumstances, 

Al telle I nat as now his observances. 

But at the last the statu of Venus schook, 

And made a signe, wherby that he took 

That his prayer accepted was that day. 

For though the signe schewed a delay. 

Yet wist he wel that graunted was hi? boone ; 

And with glad herte he went him horn ful soone. 

The thrid hour inequaP that Palamon 
Bigan to Venus temple for to goon. 

1 [The nsual clock-hours were equal. Hut the astrological were 'un- 
equal,' because th(^ day from sunrise to sunset was dividi'il into twelve 
portions, whicli varied daily, and were, exce))t at the eiiuiuoxes, oiicctiuil 
ill leuj^Ui to the ' liovirs ' of the )uV//U.--W. W.S.] 


Uii roos the sonnc, and up roos Emclye, 
And to the tuniplo of Dian gan sche live. 
Hir maydens, that sche with hir thider ladda, 
Fill ivdily with hem the fyr they hadde, 
Theucens, the clothes, and the remeuant al 
That to the sacritice lougen schal ; 
The homes ful of meth, as is the gyse ; 
Ther lakketh nought to do here sacrifise. 
Smokyng the temple, ful of clothes faii-e, 
This Emelye with herte debouaire 
Hir body wessch with watir of a wellc ; 
But how sche dide I ne dar nat telle, 
But it be eny thing in general ; 
And yet it wei'e a game to here it al ; 
To him that meneth wel it were no charge : 
But it is good a man be at his large. 
Hir brighte her was kempt, untressed al ; 
A corone of a grene ok cerial 
Upon hir heed was set ful fair and meete. 
Tuo f}Tes on the auter gan sche beete, 
And did liir thinges, as men may biholde 
In Stace of Thebes' and the bokes olde. 
Whan kynled was the fyre, with pitous cheere 
Unto Dyan sche spak, as ye may heere. 

' O chaste goddes of the woodes greeue, 
To whom bothe lieven and erthe and see is scene 
Queen of the regne of Pluto derk and lowe, 
Goddes of maydenes, that myn hert has knowe 
Ful many a yeer, ye woot what I desire, 
As keep me fro the vengans of thilk yre, 
That Atheon" aboughte trewely : 
Chaste goddesse, wel wost thou that I 
Desire to ben a mayden al my lyf, 
Ne never wol I be no love ne wyf. 

^ In the Thelitis of Stalius, a Latin poet, who lived ia the reign oi 
Domitian, already quoted. 

- Acta:on. 


I am, thou wost, yit of thi company, 
A mayden, and love huntyng and veiiery, 
And for to walken in the woodes wylde. 
And nought to ben a wyf, and be with chylda 
Nought wol I knowe the company of man. 
Now helpe me, lady, sythnes ye may and kan, 
For the thre formes^ that thou hast in the. 
And Palamon, that hath such love to me, 
And eek Arcite, that loveth me so sore, 
This grace I praye the withouten more, 
As sende love and pees betwix hem two ; 
And fro me torne awey here hertes so, 
That al here hoote love, and here desii-e, 
Al here besy torment, and al here fyre 
Ee queynt, or turned in another place. 
And if so be thou wol do me no grace, 
Or if my destyne be schapid so, 
That I schal needes have on of hem two. 
So send me him that most desireth me. 
Biholde, goddes of clene chastite. 
The bitter teeres that on my cheekes falle. 
Syn thou art mayde, and keper of us alle, 
My miaydenhode thou kepe and wel conserve 
And whil I lyve a mayde I wil the serve.' 

The fyres bren upon the auter cleer, 
Whil Emelye was in hii-e preyer ; 
But sodeinly sche saugh a sighte queynt, 
For right anon on of the fyres queynt. 
And quyked agayn, and after that anon 
That other fyr was queynt, and al agon ; 
And as it quejoit, it made a whistelyng, 
As doth a wete brond in his brennyng. 
And at the brondes end out ran anoou 
As it were bloody dropes many oon j^ 

1 In Ilarl. MS. thre is omitted, evidently by mistake. Diana is 
called Diva Trifoiniis, in heaven Luna, ou earth Diana and Lucina 
and in hell Pro.serpina. 

- The quenching of one of the fires denoted the defeat of Palamon, 
and the quickening again liis final success. The quenching of the other 


For which so sore agast was Eiiielyc, 

That sche was wcl neih mad, and gau to crie, 

Fur sche ue wisto what it siguifyed ; 

But oonely for leei-e thus sche cryed. 

And wepte, that it was pite to heere. 

And therewithal Dyane gan appeere, 

With bow in hond, right as a hunteresse, 

And seyd ; ' A ! doughter, stynt tliyn hevynesse. 

Among the goddes hye it is atiermed, 

And by etenie word write and confermed, 

Thou schalt be wedded unto oon of the, 

That have for tlie so moche care and wo ; 

But unto which of hem may I nat telle. 

Farewel, for I may her no lenger dwelle. 

The fyres which that on niyn auter breu 

Schuln the declare, or that thou go hen, 

Thj-n adventure of love, and in this caas.' 

And with that word, the arwes in the caaa 

Of the goddesse clatren faste and rynge. 

And forth sche went, and made vanysschyuge, 

For which this Emelye astoneyd was, 

And seide, ' What amounteth this, alias ! 

I put me under thy proteccioun, 

Dyane, and in thi disposicioun.' 

And hoom sche goth anon the nexte way. 

This is thetfect, ther nys no mor to say. 

The next houre of Mars folwj'nge this,* 
Arcite to the temple walkyd is, 
To {yrj Mars to doon his sacrifise. 
With al the rlghtes of his payen wise. 
With pitous herte and heih devocioun, 
Fd'1'ht thus to Mars he Siiyd his orisoun : 
' O stronge g< 'd, that in the reynes cold 
Of Trace honoured and lord art y-hold, 


fire, tind its droppinjf blood, and goinjf out witli a whistlir.g 
uiguilies Arcite's violi'iit death ami last ?ighs. 

' Tlie next hour of JIars following this, will be found to be thre« 
bour* aAvr tijat of Diana. 



And hast in every regne and every land 
Of armes al the bi-idel in thy hand, 
And hem fortunest as the lust devyse 
Accept of me my pitous sacrifise. 
If so be that my youthe may deserve, 
And tliat my might be worthi for to serve 
Thy godhed, that I may ben on of thine, 
Then pray I the to rewe on my pyne, 
For thilke peyne, and that hoote fuyre. 
In which whilom thou brendest for desyre, 
When that thou usedest the gret bewte 
Of faire freissche Yenus, that is so free, 
And haddest hir in armes at thy wille ; 
And though the ones on a tyme mysfille, 
"When Vulcanus had caught the in his laas, 
And fand the ligg}aig by his wyf, allaas ! 
For thilke sorwe that was in thin herte, 
Have reuthe as wel upon my peynes smerte. 
I am yong and unkonnyng, as thou wost, 
And, as I trowe, with love offendid most, 
That ever was eny lyves creature ; 
For sche, that doth me al this wo endure, 
Ne rekketh never whether I synke or flete. 
And wel I woot, or sche me mercy heete, 
I moot with strengthe wyn hir in the place ; 
And wel I wot, withouten help or grace 
Of the, ne may my strengthe nought avayle. 
Then help me, lord, to morn* in my batayle, 
For thilke fyr that whilom brende the, 
As wel as this fire now brenneth me ; 
And do to mom that I have the victorie. 
]\Iyn be the travail, al thin be the glorie. 
Thy soverein tempul wol I most honouren 
Of any place, and alway most labouren 
In thy plesaunce and in thy craftes strong. 
And in tliy tempul I wol my baner hong," 

To-morrow, in the morning; j. e.,the morning which is cominff. 
U was usual loi- a kuiglit to hang up his banner iu the chui-^b. 


And alle the amies of my companye, 

And e\er more, unto that day T dye, 

Eterne lyr I "^vol bifnre the fynde. 

And eek to this avow 1 wol nie Kynde : 

My herd, myu heer that hangeth longe adouo, 

That never yit ue felt otlensioun 

Of rasour ne of schere, I wol tlit>e give/ 

And be thy trewe servaunt whiles I lyve. 

Lord, have rowthe uppon my sorwes sore, 

Gif me the victorie, I aske no more.' 

The preyer stynt of Arcita the strange. 
The rj-nges on the terapul dore that hange, 
And ec'k the dores, clateredeu ful fast, 
Of which Arcita somwhat wa.s agast. 
The fyrt-s brenden on the auter briglit. 
That it gan al the tempul for to light; 
A swote smel anon the ground upgaf, 
And Arcita anon his hand up hut', 
And more encens into the fyr yet cast, 
With othir rightes, and than atte last 
The statu of ISIars bigan his hauberk rjTig. 
And with that soun he herd a murnuiryug 
Ful lowe and dym, and sayde this, ' Victorie.* 
For which he guf to Mars honour and glorie. 
And thus with joye, and hope wel to fare, 
Arcite anoon mito his inne is fare, 
As favn as foul is of the bright sonne. 
And right anon such stryf is bygonne' 
For that giuuntyng, in the heven above, 
Eitwix Venus the goddes of love. 

fvfter the oonclnsion of his scnicc, in acknowledgment that the praee 
to preserve it without reproach was from above. The banners of 
tlie Kniglits of the Garter are, to this day, hnng up in St. George's 

' This custom appears to have been derived from the Jewish law. 
St. Paul is 8aiil to have ' shorn his head at Cenchrea, for he had a 
vow." Acts xviii. Cutting off the hair is a ceremony still observed at 
tJie l>rofes3ion of nuns. 

- Thi; strJJ'e in Heaven is taken from the Tliebaia, i., m. 


And Mai-tz the sterne god armypotent, 

That Jupiter was busy it to stent ; 

Til that the pale Saturnes the colde, 

That knew so many of aventures olde, 

Fond in his olde experiens an art, 

That he ful sone hath plesed every partv 

As soth is sayd, eelde hath gret avantage, 

Tn eelde is bothe wisdom and nsage ; 

Men may the eelde at-ren, but nat at-rede. 

Satui'ne anon, to stynte stiyf and drede, 

Al be it that it be agayns his kynde, 

Of al this sti'yf he can a remedy fynde. 

' My deere doughter Venus,' quod Satourne, 

' My cours, that hath so wyde for to tourne,* 

Hath more power than woot eny man. 

Myn is the drenchyng in the see so wan ; 

Myn is the prisoun in the derke cote ; 

Myn is the stranglyng and hangyng by the throte; 

The murmur, and the cherles rebellyng; 

The groyning, and the pryve enpoysonyng, 

I do vengance and pleyn cori-ectioun. 

Whiles I dwelle in the signe of the lyoun. 

Myn is the ruen of the hihe halles, 

The fallyng of the toures and the walles 

Upon the mynour or the carpenter. 

I slowh Sampsoun in schakyng the piler. 

And myne ben the maladies colde, 

The derke tresoim, and the castes olde; 

Myn lokyng is the fadir of pestilens. 

Now wepe nomore, I schal do my diligence, 

That Palamon, that is myn owen knight, 

8chal have his lady, as thou him bihight. 

Thow Martz schal kepe his knight, yet iievertheles 

Bitwixe you ther moot som tyme be pees ; 

Al be ye nought of oo complexioun, 

That ilke day causeth such divisioun. 

' Saturn being, of the planets then known, the most distant from 
tlie 8un. 


1 am thi ayel, redy at thy wille; 
Wepe tliou nomore, I wol thi hist fiilfille.' 
Now wol I styut of tlie gockles above, 
Of Mars, aud of Venus goddes of love, 
And telle you, as plainly as T can, 
The grete eflecte for that I bigan. 

Gret was tlie fest in Athenus that day, 
And eek that lusty sesoun of that INIay 
Made every wight to ben in such plesaunce. 
That al the Monday jousten they aud daunce. 
And spende it in Venus heigh servise. 
But by the cause that they schuln arise 
Erly a-morwe for to see that fight, 
Unto their reste wente they at nyght. 
And on the morwe whan the day gan spryng, 
Of liors and hernoys noyse aud clateryug 
Ther wavS in the oostes al aboute ; 
And to the paleys rood ther many a route 
Of lordes, upon steede and palfreys. 
Ther mayst thou see devysyng of herneys 
So uncowth aud so riche wrought aud wel 
Of goldsmithry, of browdyng, and of steel ; 
The scheldes bright, testers, and trappures ; 
Gold-beten helnies, hauberks, and cote armures; 
Lordes in paramentes on her coursers, 
Knightes of retenu, and eek squyers 
Eayhyng the speres, and holmes bokelyng, 
Girdyng of scheeldes, with layneres lasyng; 
Ther as need is, they wex-e nothing ydel ; 
Ther fomen steedes, on the golden bridel 
Gnawyng, and faste arniurers also 
With fyle and hamer prikyug to and fro; 
Yemen on foote, and kuaves many oon 
With schorte staves, as thikke as they may goon; 
PvpL'S, trompes, nakers, and clarioiuies. 
That in the batail blewe bloody sowiies ; 
The paleys ful of pt'ind up and doun, 
Heer thre, ther ten, haldyng her questioun. 


Dyvynyng of tliis Thebans kuightes two. 
Som seyden thus, som seyd it schal be so ; 
Som heelde with him with the blake herd, 
Som with the ballyd, some with thikke liered ; 
Som sayd he loked grym as he wold fight ; 
He ]iath a sparth of twenti pound of wight. 
Thus was the halle ful of devynyng, 
Lang after tliat the sonne gan to spring. 
The gret Theseus that of his sleep is awaked 
With menstralcy and noyse that was maked, 
Held yit the chambre of his paleys riche, 
Til that the Thebanes knyghtes bothe i-liche 
Honoured weren, and into paleys fet. 
Duk Theseus was at a wyndow set, 
Araved right as he were trod in trone. 
The pepul preseth thider-ward fal sone 
Him for to seen, and doon him reverence, 
And eek herken his hest and his sentence. 
An herowd on a skafFold made a hoo,^ 
Til al the noyse of the pepul was i-doo ; 
And whan he sawh the pepul of noyse al stille, 
Thus schewed he the mighty dukes Aville. 
' The lord hath of his heih discrecioun 
Considered, that it were destruccioun 
To gentil blood, to fighten in this wise 
Of mortal batail now in this emprise ; 
Wherfore to schapen that they schuld not dye, 
He wol his firste purpos modiifye. 
No man therfore, up peyne of los of lyf, 
No maner schot, ne pollax, ne schort knyf 
Into the lystes sende, or thider bryng ; 
Ne schorte swerd for to stoke the point bytyng 
No man ne draw, ne here by his side. 

' Cried Ho I to enjoin silence. Tyrwhitt, who reads 0, supposes that 
it may be a contraction for Oyez, but quotes a passage from Holinslieil 
which confirms the otlier supposition. ' The Duke of Norfolk was not 
fully set forward when the king cast down his warder, and the 
lieralds cried Ho I Ho 1' 

Tin: KMOllTES TALE. 171 

"So noman sclial unto his felawe n'cle 

l!ut uou cours, with a scharpe spere ; 

Feyue if liiiu lust on footc, himself to were. 

And he that is at mcschief, schal be take, 

And nat slayn, bnt be brouglit to the stake, 

Tliat schal bu ordcyiied on eytlier syde ; 

But thider he schal by force, and tlier abyde. 

And if so falle, a choventeu be take 

On eyther side, or elles sle his make, 

No longer schal the turucynge laste. 

God spede you ; gotli forth and ley on faste. 

With long swerd' and with mace tiglit your fille. 

Goth now your way; this is the lordes wille.' 

The voice of the poepul touchith heven, 
So Icwde cried thei with mery steven : 
' God save such a lord that is so good. 
He wilneth no destruccioun of blood !' 
TJp goth the trompes and the mclodye. 
And to the lystes ryde the companye 
By ordynaunce, thurgh the cite large, 
Hangyng with cloth of gold, and not with sarge. 
Ful lik a loi'd this nobul duk can ryde, 
These tuo Thebans on eyther side ; 
And after rood the queen, and Emelye, 
And after hem of ladyes another comjianye, 
And after hem of comuues after here de<rre.* 
And thus they passeden thurgh that cite, 

' A knight in armour was in very little danfrer from a cut of a 
broadsword, or even fruiii tliu blow of a mace, but a thrusting sword 
might easily pierce tiirougli the joints of his armour. ' Still the Chris- 
tians proved good nu-n. and. serure in their unconquerable spirits, kept 
constantly advancing, while the Turks kept constantly tin-eatening 
them in the rear ; but their blows fell fuirmlexs ujion the dcku.iive 
armour: this caused the Turks to slacken in courage at the failure of 
their attempts, and they began to murmur in whispers of disappoint- 
ment, crying out in their rage, ' that our people were of iron aiid 
would yii'ld to no blow.' — Itinerary o/Jiichard 1., by GEOrrREY de Yin- 
SAVr, book iv. c. 19. 

- These two lines are rejected by Mr. Wright, but are here restored 
from the Harl. MS. instead of the common reading. They are more in 


And to the lystes con?e tliei by tyme. 
It nas not of the day yet fully pryme, 
Whan sette was Theseus riche and hye, 
Ypolita the queen usid Emelye, 
And other ladyes in here degrees aboute. 
Unto the settes passeth al the route ; 
And west-ward, thorugh the gates of INIart, 
Arcite, and eek the hundred of his part, 
With baners red ys entred right anoon ; 
And in that selve moment Palamon 
Is, under Yenus, est- ward in that place. 
With baner whyt, and hardy cheer of face. 

In al the world, to seeke up and doun, 
So even without variacioun 
Ther nere siiche companyes tweye. 
For ther nas noon so W3's that cowtbe seye, 
That any had of other avauutage 
Of worthines, ne staat, ne of visage, 
So evene were they chosen for to gesse. 
And in two renges faire they hem dresse. 
And whan here names i-rad were evervchon, 
That in here nombre gile were ther noon, 
Tho were the gates schitt, and cried lowde : 
'Doth now jour devoir,* yonge knightes proude!' 
The heraldz laften here prikyng tip and doun ; 
Now ryngede the tromp and clarioun ; 
Ther is nomore to say, but est and west 
In goth the speres into the rest ;^ 
Ther seen men who can juste, and who can ryde ; 
In goth the schai^pe spere into the side. 
Ther schyveren schaftes upon schuldves thyk ; 
He feeleth thurgh the herte-spon the prik. 

Chaucer's manner, from the minuteness of their description of the 
scene. The reader will remark that they are both Alexandrines. 

' The tisual word of oneouragement on such occasions. It is curious 
that Nelson, in his celebrated signal before tlie battle of Trafalgar, 
should have adopted the very words of cliivalry. 

- The rest was a sort of holster attached to the stirrup, in which the 
butt end of the lauce was placed to keep it steady. 


Up spi'engor. spercs on twenty foot on higlit ; 

(Jut goon the swerdes as tlie silver liriglit. 

The hehiies thei-n to-hewen and to-sehrede ; 

Out the blood, with stoute strcmes reede 

With mighty macfs the bones thay to-brestc. 

He thurgh the thikkest of the throng gan threste. 

TIkt stoniblun stecdes strong, and doiin can falle. 

He rolleth under foot as doth a balle. 

He fevneth on his foot with a tronchoun. 

And him liui-teleth with his hors adonn. 

He thurgh the body hurt is, and siththen take 

]\Iaugre his heed, and brought unto the stake, 

As forward was, right ther he most abyde. 

Another lad is on that other syde. 

And som tyme doth Theseus hem to rest, 

Hem to refreissche, and drinke if hem lest. 

Ful ofte a-day have this Thebans twoo 

Togider y-met, and wroiight his felaw woo ; 

Unhoi"sed hath ech other of hem tweye. 

Ther nas no tygyr in the vale of Galgoj)leve,' 

Whan that hir whelpe is stole, whan it is lite, 

So cruel on the hunt, as is Arcite 

For jelous hert upon this Palamon : 

Ne in Belmaiy ther is no fel lyoun. 

That hunted is, or is for hunger wood, 

Ne of his prey desireth so the blood, 

As Palamon to sle his foo Arcite. 

The jelous strokes on here helmes b}'te ; 

Out renneth blood on bothe here sides reede. 

Som tyme an ende ther is on every dede ; 

For er the sonne unto the reste went, 

The strange kyug Emetreus gan hent 

' This word is variously written; Colaphey, Galgaphey, Galapey. 
There was a town called Mauritania Taiigitana. upon the 
river Malva {Cellar. a<ixj. Ant.,v.\\.. p. 935), which, peihaps. may 
have given name to the vale here meant. — T. lielmarie was noticed, 
ante, p. 78. note 3- 


This Palamon, as he faught with Arcite, 

And his swerd in his fleissch he did byte ; 

And by the force of twenti he is take 

Unyolden, and i-drawe unto the stake. 

And in tlie rescous of this Palamon 

The stronge kyng Ligurgius is born adoun ; 

And kyng Enietreus for al his strengthe 

Is born out of his sadel his swerdes lengthe, 

So hit him Palamon er he were take ; 

But al for nought, he was brought to the stake. 

His hardy herte might him helpe nought ; 

He most abyde whan that he was caught, 

By force, and eek by coraposicioun.^ 

Who sorweth now but woful Palamoun, 

That moot nomore gon agayn to fight 1 

And whan that Theseus had seen that sight, 

He cryed, ' Hoo ! nomore, for it is doon ! 

Ne noon schal lenger unto his felaw goon. 

I wol be trewe juge, and nought party e. 

Arcyte of Thebes schal have Emelye, 

That hath by his fortune hire i-wonne.' 

Anoon ther is noyse bygonne 

For joye of this, so lowde and hey withalle, 

It semed that the listes wolde falle. 

What can now fayre Venus doon above 1 

What seith sche now? what doth this queen of 

But wepeth so, for wantyng of hir wille, 
Til that hire teeres in the lystes fille ; 
Sche seyde : ' I am aschaxned douteles.' 
Satournus seyde : ' Doughter, liold thy pees. 
Mars hath his wille, his knight hath his boone, 
And by myn heed thou schalt be esed soone.' 
The trompes with the lowde mynstralcy, 
The herawdes, that ful lowde yolle and cry, 
Been in here joye for dauu Avcyte. 
But herkneth me, and stynteth but a lite. 

' 15)' a^reemenx. 


Wliicli' a miracle bifel anoon. 

Tliis Arcyte t'ersly liath dmi his holm nJoun, 

And on his courser for to scliewe his face, 

Ho prikfd endlango" in the larije place, 

I.okyng upward upon this Emclye ; 

And sche agayn him cast a frcndly yghe, 

(For \v<iniiiion, as for to spoke in comune, 

Thay fohve alio the favour of fortune) 

And was alle his in cheer, and in his hert 

Out of the ground a fyr infernal stert, 

From Pluto send, at the request of Saturne, 

For which his hoi-s for feere gan to turue. 

And leep asyde, and foundred as he leep ; 

And or that Arcyte may take keep, 

He pight him on the pomel of his heed, 

That in that place he lay as he were deed. 

His brest to-broken with his sadil bowe. 

As blak he lay as eny col or crowe, 

So was the blood y-ronne in his ftice. 

Anon he was y-bom out of the place 

With herte sore, to Theseus paleys. 

Tho was ho corven^ out of his harueys, 

And in a bed y-brought ful lair and blyve, 

For yit he was in memory and on lyve. 

And alway cryeng after Emolye. 

Duk Theseus, and al his compauye. 

Is comen horn to Athenes his cite, 

With alle blys and great solompnit6, 

Al be it that this aventure was fallc, 

He nolde nought discomforten hem alle. 

Men seyde eok, that Arcita schuld nought dye, 

He schal be helyd of his maladye. 

And of another thing they were as fayn. 

That of hem alle ther was noon y-slayn, 

' tHidt a miracle. 

' A feat of the manege, ust-d for dis|)l;iy. By f purring a horse on 
one silk', and at the same time holding him tight with a severe bit. ha 
is made to curvet, or advance end-long in short bounds. 

3 Cut out of his armour, t. e., tlie lacej Avhich held it togetlicr were 
cat lor greater expeditioiu 


Al were tliey sore hurt, and namely oon, 
That with a spere was thirled his brest boon. 
To other woundes, and to broken amies, 
Some hadde salve, and some hadde charmes, 
Fermacyes of herbes, and eek save^ 
They dronken, for they wolde here lyves have. 
For which this noble duk, as he wel can, 
Oomforteth and honoureth eveiy man, 
And made revel al the lange night, 
Unto the straunge lordes, as was right. 
Ne ther was liolden to discomfytyng. 
But as a justes or as a turneying ; 
For sothly ther was no discomfiture. 
For fallynge is but an adventure. 
Ne to be lad with fors unto the stake 
Unyolden, and with twenty knightes take, 
A person allone, withouten moo, 
And rent forth by arme, foot, and too. 
And eke his steede dryven forth with staves. 
With footemen, botlie yemen and eke knaves, 
It was aretled him no vylonye,* 
Ne no maner man heldn it no cowardye. 
For which Theseus lowd anon leet crie, 
To stynten al rancour and al envye, 
The gree as wel on o syde as on other, 
And every side lik, as otheres brother; 
And gaf hem giftes after here degr6. 
And fully heeld a feste dayes thre ;' 

* Sage, or salvia, was considered a sovereign remedy in the middle 
ages, whence the proverb of the school of Salerno— 

' Cur moriatur Iiomo, 
Dum salvia crescit in horto.' 

'^ See a7ite, p. 107, note i. 

3 Mr. Wriglit, in a note upon the place, says, that three days were 
the usual duration of a feast in the middle ages, and quotes from 
Eddius, yU. S. ]VUf. c. 1 7, who, when he consecrated his chmxh at 
Itipon, held magnum convivium trium dierum. 


And conveyed the knightes wortliily 

Out of his toun a jouruee' hirgely. 

And horn went every man the righte way. 

Ther was no more, but ' Farwcl, have good day !' 

Of this batayl I wul no more eudite, 

But speke of Palamon and of Arcyte. 

Swellcth tlie of Arcyte, and the sore 
Eucresceth at his herte more and moie. 
The clothred blood, for eny leche-craft, 
Con-umpith, and is in his bouk i-laft, 
That nother vevne blood, ne ventusATicr, 
Ne diynk of herbcs may ben his helpyug. 
The vertu expulsif, or animal, 
Fro thilke vertu cleped natural, 
Ne may the venym voyde, ne expelle. 
The pypcs of his lounges gan to swelle, 
And eveiy lacerte in his brest adoun 
Is schent with venym and coi'rupciouu. 
Him gayneth nother, for to get his lyf, 
Vomyt up-ward, ne doun-ward laxatif ; 
Al is to-broken thilke regioun; 
Nature hath now no dominacioun. 
And certeynly wher natur will not wirche, 
Farwel phisik ; go bere the man to chirche. 
This al and som, that Arcyte moste dye.'' 
For which he sendeth after Emelye, 
And Palamon, that was his cosyn deere. 
Than seyd he thus, as ye schul after heere. 

' Naught may the woful spiiit in myn herte 
Declare a poynt of my sorwes smerte 
To you, my lady, that I love most; 
But I byquethe the service of my gost 
To you aboven every creature, 
Syn that my lyf may no lenger dure. 

' A day's journey. 
* Tynvhitt rciuis, — This is all and some; it means, this i« the short 
and long of it, that Arcite must die. 

VOL. I. U 


Alias, the woo! alias, tlie peynes stronge, 

That I for you have sufifred, and so longe ! 

Alias, the deth ! alas, myn Emelye ! 

Alias, departyng of our companye ! 

Alias, myn hertes queen! alias, my wyf! 

ISIyn hertes lady, ender of my lyf ! 

What is this world? what asken men to havet 

Now with his love, now in his colde grave 

Allone withouten any companye. 

Farwel, my swete : farwel, myn Emelye ! 

And softe take me in your armes tweye. 

For love of God, and herkneth what I seye. 

I have heer with my cosyn Palamon 

Had stryf and rancour many a day i-gon, 

For love of yow, and eek for jelousie. 

And Jupiter so wis my sowle gye, 

To speken of a servaunt proprely, 

With alle circumstaunces trewely, 

That is to seyn, truthe, honour, and knighthede, 

Wysdom, humblesse, astaat, and by kynrede, 

Fredam, and al that longeth to that art, 

So Jupiter have of my soule part. 

As in this world right now ne know I non 

So worthy to be loved as Palamon, 

That serveth you, and wol do al his lyf. 

And if that ye scliul ever be a wyf, 

Forget not Palamon, that gentil man.' 

And with that word his speche faile gan ; 

For fro his heii;e up to his brest was come 

The cold of deth, that him had overcome. 

And yet moreover in his armes twoo 

The vital strength is lost, and al agoo. 

Only the intellect, withouten more, 

That dwelled in his herte sik and sore, 

Gan fayle, when the herte felte death, 

Duskyng his eyghen two, and fayled breth. 

But on his lady yit he cast his ye ; 

HLs laste word was, ' Mercy, Emelye !' 


IJ'in spiryt cliaimgcd was, and wente ther, 

As I cam never, I can nat tellen wlier. 

Theretnre I styute, I nam no dy\'A-nistre;' 

Of soules fynde I not in this registre, 

Ne me list nat thopynyouns to telle 

Of hem, though that tliei ^\yten wher they dwelle. 

Arcj-te is cold, ther Mars his soule gye; 

Now wol I speke forth of f]melye. 

Shright Emely, and howled Palamon, 
And Theseus his sustir took anon 
Swownyng, and bar hir fro the corps away. 
What helpeth it to tarye forth the day, 
To telle how sche weep bothe eve and morwe? 
For in swich caas wommen can have such sorwe. 
Whan that here housbonds ben from hem ago, 
That for the more part they sorwen so, 
Or elles fallen in such maladye, 
That atte laste certeynly they dye.* 
Infynyt been the sorwcs and the t«eres 
Of olde folk, and folk of tender yeeres ; 
So gret a wepyng was ther noon certayn, 
Whan Ector was i-brought, al freissh i-slayn. 
As that ther was for deth of this Theban ; 
For sorwe of him ther weepeth bothe child and 

At Trove, alias ! the pit^ that was there, 
Cracchyug of cheekes, ivnding eek of here. 
' Why woldist thou be deed,' this wommen crye, 
' And haddest gold ynowgh, and Emelye?'* 
No man mighte glade Theseus, 
Sa\'yng his olde fader Egeus, 

• See introduction to this tale. '■' Ironical. 

' This custom of expostuliitinp witli the dead and eiMimornting all 
the advantages they have left is still common at funerals of the lower 
orders in Ireland. The wordi, varied according to the circumstances 
of the person, arc sung to a jilaintive wailing tune, called a heeii. by 
women hired for the purpose, who are called kefners. .Specimen* of 
tbeM keeiis are to be found in Crofton Croker's Irish Dallads. 

N 2 


That knew this worldes transmutacioun, 
As he hadde seen it torne np and doun, 
Joye aftei' woo, and woo aftir gladnesse : 
And schewed him ensample and likenesse. 

' Right as theii' deyde never man,' quod he, 
' That he ne lyved in erthe in som degree, 
Yit ther ne lyvede never man,' he seyde, 
' In al this world, that som tyme he ne deyde. 
This world nys but a thui'ghfare ful of woo, 
And we ben pilgrjons, passyng to and froo; 
Deth is an ende of every worldly sore.' 
And over al this yit seide he mochil more 
To this effect, ful wysly to enhorte 
The peple, that they schulde him recomforte> 

Duk Theseus, with al his busy cure. 
Cast busyly wher that the sepulture 
Of good Arcyte may best y-maked be, 
And eek most honurable in his degre. 
Ai«i atte last he took conclusioun, 
That ther as first Arcite and Palamon 
Hadden for love the batail hem bytwene, 
That in the selve grove, soote and greene, 
Ther as he hadde his amorous desii'es, 
His compleynt, and for love his hoote fyres. 
He wolde make a fyr, in which thoffice 
Of funeral he might al accomplice ; 
And leet comaunde anon to hakke and hewe 
The okes old, and lay hem on a re we 
In culpouns well arrayed for to brenne. 
His officers with swifte foot they renne, 
And ryde anon at his comaundement. 
And after this, Theseus hath i-sent 
After a beer, and it al overspradde 
With cloth of golde, the richest that he hadda 
And of the same sute he clad Arcyte; 
Upon his hondes were liis gloves white ; 
Eke on his heed a croune of laurer grene ; 
And in his hond a swerd ful bright and kene. 


He loyde him bare the visage on the beere,* 
Thcrwith he woei) tliat pite was to hcere. 
And lor the poejile schulile see him alle, 
Whau it was day he brought hem to the halle, 
That roreth of the cry and of the soun. 
Tho cam this woful Thcban Pahimoun, 
With flotery herd, and ruggy asshy heeres, 
In clothis blak, y-droi)ped al with teeres, 
And, passyng other, of wepyng Emelye, 
The re\viullest of al the compauye. 
And in as moche as tlie service schukle be 
The more nobul and riche in his degre, 
Duk Theseus leet forth thre steedes bryng, 
Tliat trapped were in steel al gliteryng, 
And covered with armes of dan Arcyte. 
Upon the steedes, that weren grete and white, 
Ther seeten folk, of which oon bar his scheeld, 
Anotlier his spere up in his hondes heeld ; 
The thridde bar with him his bowe Tiu-keys, 
Of brend gold was the caas and eek the herneys; 
And riden forth a paas with sorwful chere 
Toward the grove, as ye schul after heere. 
The nobles of the Grekes that ther were 
Upon here schuldres carieden the beere, 
With slak paas, and eyhen reeil and wete, 
Thurghout the cite, by the maister streete, 
That sprad was al with blak, and wonder hye 
Eight of the same is al the stret i-wrye. 
Upon the right hond went olde Egeus, 
And on that other syde duk Theseus, 

' Tynvhitt observes on this lino — ' If this expression were in Milton, 
the critics would not fail to call it an (Icfjani Grccisrn. In Chancer we 
can only hope that it may be allowed to be an elegant AnglicUm. 
I'roissart says, that the corpse of Edward III. was carried ' tout au 
long de la cit(5 de Londres, d viaire decouvcrt, j\i»ques a Westmonsticr, 
vol. i. c. 3j6. This appears to have been the general custom. It it 
alluded to in the Friar of Orders Grey, in Percy's Rdiques : — 
• Here bore him, bare-faced on his bier, 
Six proper youths and tall." 


With vessels in here hand of gold wel fyn, 

As ful of hony, niylk, and blood, and wyn; 

Eke Palamon, with a gret conipanye ; 

And after that com woful Einelye, 

With fyr in hond, as was at that time the gyse,' 

To do thoffice of funeral servise. 

Heygh labour, and ful gret apparailyng 
Was at the service and at the fyr makyng, 
That with his gTene top the heven raughte, 
And twenty fadme of brede thai-me straughte ; 
This is to seyn, the boowes were so brode, 
Of stree first was ther leyd ful many a loode. 
But how the fyr was makyd up on highte, 
And eek the names how the trees highte, 
As ook, fyr, birch, asp, aldir, holm, popler, 
Wilw, elm, plane, assch, box, chesteyn, lynde, laurer 
Mapul, thorn, beech, hasil, ew, wyppyltre, 
How they weren felde, schal nought be told for me 
!Ne how the goddes ronnen up and doun, 
Disheryt of here habitacioun, 
In which they whilom woned in rest and pees, 
Kymphes, Faunes, and Amadryes ; 
Ise how the beestes and the briddes alle 
Fledden for feere, whan the woode was falle ; 
Tie how the ground agast was of the light. 
That was nought wont to see no sonne bright ; 
Ne how the fyr was couchid fii'st with stree. 
And thanne with drye stykkes cloven in thi'ee, 
Aiid thaune with grene woode and spicerie. 
And thanne with cloth of gold and with perry? 
And gerlandes hangyng with ful many a flour, 
The myri'e, thensens with al so gret odour; 
"Ne how Arcyte lay among al this, 
Ne what richesse aboute his body is; 
Ne how that Emely, as was the gyse, 
Putt in the fyr of funei-al servise ; 

 The whole description of the funeral &nd games is taken from the 
sixth book of the Tlubais. 


Ne how she swowned when sche made the fyre, 

Ne what sche spak, ne what was hire desire; 

Ne what jowi'ls men in the fyr tlio cast, 

Whan thai/ tlie fyr was grot and brente fast ; 

Ne how sum caste her scheeM, and sumnie her spere, 

And of here vestimentz, which that they were, 

And cuppes ful of wjti, and mylk, and blood, 

Unto the fyr, tliat brent as it were wood ; 

Ne how the Grekes with an huge route 

Thre tymes ryden al the fyr abtmte 

Upon tlu" lefte hond, with an heih schoutyng, 

And thries with here spm-es clateryng ; 

And thries how the ladyes gan to crye ; 

Ne how that lad was home-ward Emelye ; 

Ne how Arcyte is brent to aschen colde ; 

Ne how the liche-wake^ was y-holde 

Al thilke night, ne how the Grekes pleye 

The wake-pleyes, kepe i nat to seye ; 

Who wrastleth best naked, with oyle enoynt, 

Ne who that bar him best in no disjoynt. 

I wol not telle eek how they ben goon 

Horn til Atheues whan the pley is doon. 

But schortly to the poynt now wol I wende. 

And maken of my longe tale an ende. 

By pvoces and by leugthe of certcyn yeres 
Al styntyd is the mornyng and the teeres 
Of alle Grekys, by oon general assent. 
Than semed me ther was a parlement 

' From the Saxon lie, a corpse, like the German Mrh, and wake, ft 
vigil. The custom of watching with dead bodies is very ancient in 
this country, and lingered till lately among the Roman Catholics in 
the North. See, in Scott's Border Minstrelsy, a curiou.M rhyme sung on 
each occasions. The 'wake-pleycs,' mentioned two lines lower down, may 
still be traced in the gamed usual at wakes among the Iri-h peasantry. 
These, as well as our own custom of laying out in state the bodies o( 
persons of distinction, axe no doubt derived from the Pagan funeral 
ceremonies, which the rulers of the early church, in deference lo the 
Inveterate prejudices of their heatlien converti", permitted to remain, and 
cudeavoured to christianize. [Compare iicA-gate ; also iu/ifieldj 


At Athenes, on a certeyn poynt and cas ; 

Among the whiche poyntes spoken was 

To lian with certeyn conti-ees alliaunce, 

And have fully of Thebans obeissance. 

For which this noble Theseus anon 

Let senden after gentil Palamon, 

TJn-wist of him what was the cause and why ; 

But in his blake clothes sorwfuUy 

He cam at his comauD dement on hye. 

Tho sente Theseus for Emelye. 

Whan they were sette, and husshtwas al the place. 

And Theseus abyden hadde a space 

Or eny word cam fro his wyse brest, 

His even set he ther as was his lest, 

And with a sad visage he syked stille, 

And after that right thus he seide his wille. 

' The firste moevere of the cause above, 
Whan he first made the fayre cheyne of love,^ 
Gret was thefiect, and heigh was his entente ; 
Wei wist he why, and what therof he mente ; 
For with that faire cheyne of love he bond 
The fyr, the watir, the eyr, and eek the lond 
In certeyn boundes, that they may not flee ; 
That same prynce and moevere eek,' quod he, 
' Hath stabled, in this wrecched world adoun, 
Certeyn dayes and duracioun 
To alle that er engendrid in this place, 
Over the which day they may nat pace, 
Al mowe they yit wel here dayes abregge ; 
Ther needeth non auctorite tallegge ; 
For it is preved by experience. 
But that me lust declax'e my sentence. 

' This sublime philosophy is derived from Boethius, De Consolatione. 
Phil. ii. met. 8 : — 

' ITanc rerum seriem lipat, 
Terras ac pelagus regens, 
Et coelo imperitans, amor.* 

Here Platonism is elevated by Christianity. 


Than may men wel by this ordro discerue, 
Tluit tliilke moevcre stiibul is and etorne. 
Wel may men kuowe, but it be a fciol, 
That eveiy partye dyryveth from his hooL 
For nature hath nat tiike his bygynnyug 
Of no partye ne cantui of a thing, 
But of a thing that parfyt is and stable, 
Descendyng so, til it be corumpable. 
And thorfore of his wyse purveaunce 
lie hath so wd biset his ordenaunce, 
That spices' of thinges and progressiomis 
SchuUen endure by successiouns, 
And nat eterne be withoute lyo : 
This maistow understand and se at ye.* 

' Lo the ook,* that hath so long norisschyng 
Fro tyme that it gynneth fii-st to spring. 
And hath so long a lyf, as we may see, 
Yet atte laste wasted is tho tree. 

' Considereth eek, how that the hai-de stoon 
Under oure foot, on which we trede and goon, 
Yit wasteth it, as it lith by the weye. 
The brode ryver som tyme wexeth dreye. 
The Errete townes see we wane and wende. 
Then may I see tliat al tiling hath an ende. 

* Of man and womman se we wel also, 
That wendeth in oon of this termes two. 
That is to seyn, in youthe or elles in age, 
He moot ben deed, the kyng a.s schal a page ; 
Sum in his bed, som in the deepe see, 
Som in the large feeld, as men may se. 
Ther helpeth naught, al goth thilke weye. 
Thanne may I see wel that al thing schal deye. 

• Species. - Sec nt eye, by experience. 

' This passage is taken from the Thesrida. It is in whnt Chaucer 
sails ' high sty if,' ami is in accordance with the meilia;val taste for 
J polopues, ridiculed by .Shakespeare in FalstalTs jxTsonation of lliiiry 
IV. ' For though tlic camoinille, the more it is trodden on, tlie more it 
growetli, &c.' — Utnnj ly., i'art I., Act ii. 


Wliat maketli this but Jubiter the kjTi\* ? 
The which is prynce and cause of alle thiag, 
Convertyng al unto his propre wille, 
From which he is dereyned, soth to telle. 
And here agayn no creature on lyve 
Of no degre avayleth for to stryve. 

' Than is it wisdom, as thenketh me, 
To maken vertu of necessite, 
And take it wel, that we may nat eschewe, 
And namely that that to us alle is dewe. 
And who so gruccheth aught, he doth folye, 
And rebel is to him that al may gye. 
And certeynly a man hath most honour 
To deyen in his excellence and flour, 
Whan he is siker of his goode name. 
Than hath he doon his freend, ne him, no schame 
And glader ought his freend ben of his deth, 
Whan with honour is yolden up the breth, 
Thanne whan his name appelled is for age; 
For al forgeten is his vasselage. 
Thanne is it best, as for a worthi fame, 
To dye whan a man is best of name. 
The contrary of al this is wilfulnesse. 
vVhy grucchen we? why have we hevynesse, 
That good Arcyte, of chy^^alry the flour, 
Departed is, with worschip and honour 
Out of this foulc prisoun of this lyf ? 
Why gruccheth heer his cosyn and his wyf 
Of his welfare, that loven him so wel 1 
Can he hem thank 1 nay, God woot, never a del. 
That bothe his soule and eek heniself ofFende, 
And yet they may here lustes nat amende. 

' What may I conclude of this longe serye, 
But aftir wo I rede us to be merye. 
And thanke Jubiter of al his gi'ace? 
And or that we departe fro this place, 
I rede that we make, of sorwes two, 
O parfyt joye lastyng ever mo : 


And lokoth now wher most sorwe is her-iune, 
Ther wol wo first aniemlcu aud bygynne. 

' Sustyr,' quod he, ' this is my ful assont, 
With all tlui\-y3 heer of my parlement, 
That guiitil Palamon. your owne knight, 
That scrveth yow with lierte, will, and might, 
And ever hath doon, syn fyret tyme ye him knewe, 
That ye schul of your gi^ace upon him rewe, 
And take him for your housbond and for lord : 
Lene mc youre hand, for this is cure acord- 
Let see now of your wommanly pite. 
He is a k}Tiges brothir sone, pardee ; 
And though he were a pore bachiller,' 
S}Ti lie hath served you so many a yeer, 
And had for you so gret adversite, 
It moste be considered, trusteth me. 
For gentil mercy aughte passe right.* 
Than seyde he thus to Palamon ful right ; 
' I trowe ther needeth litel sermonyng 
To make you assente to this thing. 
Com neer, and tak your lady by the hond.' 
Bitwix hem was i-maad anon the bond, 
Tluit highte matrimoyn or mariage, 
By alle the counseil of the baronage. 
And thus with blys and eek with melodye 
Hath Palamon i-wedded Emelye. 
And God, that al this wyde world hath wi-ought 
Send him liis love, that hath it deere i-bought 
For now is Palamon in al his wele, 
Ly^ynge in blisse, richesse, and in hele. 
And Emelye him loveth so tendirly, 
And he hir serveth al so gentilly, 
That never was ther wordes hem bitweene 
Of jelousy, ne of non othir tene. 
Thus endeth Palamon and Emelye ; 
And God save al this fayre couipanye ! 

^ Bachelor, the lowest rank of knighthood. 



WHAN that the Knight had thus his tale i-told, 
In al the route nas ther yong ne old, 
That he ne seyde it was a noble stoiy, 
And worthi to be drawen to memory; 
And namely the gentils everichoon. 
Our Host tho lowh and swoor, ' So moot I goon, 
This goth right wel ; unbokeled is the male ;^ 
Let se now who schal telle another tale ; 
For trewely this game is wel bygonne. 
Now telleth ye, sir Monk, if that ye konne 
Somwhat, to quyte with the knightes tale.' 
The ISIyller that for drunken was al pale,'* 
So that unnethe upon his hors he sat, 
He wold avale nowther hood ne hat, 
Ne abyde no man for his curtesye, 
But in Pilates* voys he gan to crye, 

1 Apparently a proverbial expression derived from the market, and 
meaning, literally, that the male, or bale of goods, is opened and the 
ware exposed for the customers' inspection ; metapliorically, that the 
business is well begun. 

^ All pale for drunkenness. It does not seem here the German 
particle rertrunken, but a preposition meaning d force de, for very 
drunkenness. There are several examples: sae two, 'for old' and • for 
blak,' a/i^e, p. iS8. Others occur elsewhere. 

3 In the gruff, hoarse voice assumed by the actors who played the cha- 
racter of Pilate in the popular mysteries of the Passion. The 
' mysteries ' or ' miracles,' founded on Scripture, or the Lives of the 
Christian JIartyrs, were often performed by ecclesiastics in churches, 
for the purpose of instructing the unlearned people in the substance of 
Scripture history, or exciting them to zeal by the force of example. 
So early as the time of William I., Matt. Paris relates that Geoffrey, 
a learned Norman, composed a play on the martyrdom of St. Catherine. 
Mr. Price, the learned editor of VV'arton, says, that the earliest 
miracle play extant in English is Oiir Sririmir's Descent into Hell, in 
MS. of the time of Edward II. There is this curious passage in 
Lambarde's Topograpltical Dictionary, \\T\Hiii\ about the year i57o. 'In 
the dayes of ceremonial religion, they used at Wytncy (in Oxfordshire) 
to set fourthe yearly, in manner of a shew or interlude, the Resur- 
rection of our Lord, &c The like to which I myselfe, being 

then a childe, once sawe in Poule's Churche in London, at a feast of 
Whitsuntide ; wheare the comynge down of the Holy Gost was set 
fcirthe by a white pigeon, that was let to fly out of a hole that yet is to 
be sene in the mydst of the roofe of the greate ile,'&c. See also rlie seriou 


And swor hy amies and by blood and bones, 

' I can a noblo talc for the noones, 

With which I wol now quyte the knightes tale.' 

Oure Hoost saw wul how dronke he was of ale, 

And seyde, ' Rol>yii, abyde, my leve brother, 

tSum bettre man schal telle first another ; 

Abyd, and let us worken thriftyly.' 

' By Goddes soule !' quod he, ' that wol nat 1, 

For I wol speke, or cllcs go my way.' 

Oui-e Host answerd, ' Tel on, a devel way ! 

Thou art a fool ; thy witt is overcome.' 

' Now herkneth,' quod this Myller, ' al and some ; 
But lirst I make a j)rutestacioun, 
That I am dronke, I knowe wel by my soun ; 
And therfore if that I mys-speke or seye, 
^^'^•te it the ale of South werk, 1 you preye ; 
For T wol telle a legende and a lyf 
Bothe of a carpenter and of his wyf. 
How that the clerk hath set the svrightes cappe.' 

The Reve answered and seyde, ' Stynt thi clappe. 
Let be thy lewed drunken harlottrj'e. 
It is a synne, and eek a greet folye 
To apeyren eny man, or him defame, 
And eek to brynge ^vyves in ylle name. 
Thou mayst ynowgh of other thinges seyn.' 
This dronken Miller spak ful sone ageyu. 
And seyde, ' Leeve brother Osewold, 
Who hath no wyf, he is no cokewold- 

of plays exhibited at Cliestir, in i 3i7, at the expense of tlie different 
trailing companies, of which an edition was edited by Mr. Wright for 
the Shakspeijxe Society ; al.-io The Towneley ami Coventry Myslrrks. It 
appears from Strype's Grimlal, p. 8i, that this practice of acting plays 
in churches lingered even after the Kefonnation, except that profane 
stories had taken the place of religious. The celebrated ceremonies ol tha 
Holy Week in the Sistine Chapel, to which the English abroad alway.s 
tlock in such numbers, are something of the same character. The events 
of the Passion are read from one of the Evangelists in a simple but very 
toucliing different divisions of the choir, onr division taking 
the words of our Lord, another of the .Scribes and Pharisees, anothei 
of the people, and a fourth reading the narrative. 


But I seye not therfore tliat tlaou art oon, 

Therbeen ful goode wyves many oon. 

And ever a thousand goode agayns oon badde ; 

That knowest thou wel thyself, bat if thou madde.' 

Why art thou angry with my tale now 1 

I have a Avyf, parde ! as well as thow, 

Yet nolde I, for the oxen in my plough, 

Take upon me more than ynough ; 

Though that thou deme thiself that thou be con," 

I wol bileeve wel that I am noon. 

An housbond schal not be inquisityf 

Of Goddes pryvete, ne of his wyf. 

So that he may fynde Goddes foysoun there, 

Of the remenaunt needeth nought enquere.' 

What schuld I seye, but that this proud Myllere 

He nolde his wordes for no man forbere, 

But tolde his cherlisch tale in his manere. 

Me athinketh, that I schal reherce it heere; 

And therfor every gentil wight I preye, 

For Goddes love, as deme nat that I seye, 

Of yvel entent, but for I moot reherse 

Here wordes alle, al be they better or werse, 

Or elles falsen som of my mateere." 

And therfor who so list it nat to heere, 

Tume over the leef, and cheese another tale ; 

For he schal fynde yuowe bothe gret and smale, 

Of storial thing that toucheth gentilesse, 

And eek moralite, and holynesse.* 

Blameth nat me, if that ye cheese amys. 

The IMiller is a cherl, ye know wel this ; 

' Mndde is here a verb, meaning to be going mad. Tyrwhitt in his f t-xt 
omits tliese two lines, but gives tliem in his notes in a less correct form. 
The Miller probably meant this compliment ironically. 

- There is much humour in the Miller's taking it for granted thnt 
the reason Oswald objects to his tale, even before he has heard it, is 
because he thinks it must needs apply to his own case. 

^ See ante,\>. 107, note 2. 

■» It may be mentioned, as a specimen of the errors wiOi which 
even the best MSS. abound, tliat in the Ilarleian MS. this line ii 
written — 

• And eek more ryalte and Lolinessc • 



So was the Reeve, and othir many mo, 
And harlotry they toldcn bothe two. 
Avyseth you. and put me out of blame ; 
And men schulde nat make ernest of game. 


[TnE origin of this story has not been ascertained. Mr. 
Wright thinks that it is probably founded upon afahVuiu, 
current in Chaucer's time, but now either or buri«d 
among the MSS. of some public library ; an opinion to which 
Tyrwhitt also inclines. For the licentiousness of this and 
some of the other tales, no valid excuse can be oflered. The 
necessities of the plan, and the manners of the age, are some- 
times urged in extenuation, and the plea may be allowed to 
some extent in mitigation of judgment ; but even Chaucer 
himself felt that an apology was due, and has attempted one, 
which, as has been shown before, is, in fact, no apology at 
all. In his treatment of the subject, the poet has introduced 
the various incidents and characters with great comic power 
and art. No circumstance is omitted which could add 
grotesqueness to the general effect. The contrast between 
Nicholas's outward manners and real pursuits ; the incon- 
gruity between the hymn he chooses to sing and the plan he 
is concocting; hisoracvilar mode of declaring his vision; the car- 
penter's excessive distress at the prospect of losing his Alison, 
who is all the time plotting against his honour: his complacency 
in the superiority of his own common sense over the clerk's 
book-learning ; Absolon's devices to make himself agreeable ; 
his preparations for the hoped-for accolade, and his sudden 
disgust for his former objects of pursuit, are all thrown iu 
with the hand of a master in this kuid of broad humour. 
The antiquarian and historical aspects of this tale are not 
without interest as illustrating the manners of the times. 
• In the description of the young wife of our philosopher's 
host,' says Warton, ' there is gi-eat elegance, with a mixture 
oi' burlesque allusions ; not to mention the curiosity of a 


female portrait drawn with so much exactness at s\ich a dis- 
tance of time.' Here, too, the poet exhibits that growing 
feeling of hostility to the clergy which prompted the writers 
of the latter part of the middle ages to rejoice in placing them 
and the service of the Church in a ludicrous point of view ; 
for Ahsolon, heing a parish clerk, was of course, in accord- 
ance with the custom of the primitive and mediteval churches, 
in minor orders.] 

WHILOM ther was dwellyng at Oxenford 
A riche gnof,* that gestes heeld to boorde,* 

And of his craft he was a carpenter. 

With him ther was dwellyng a pore scoler, 
r Had lerned art, but al his fantasye 

Was torned for to lerne astrologye, 

And cowde a certeyn of conclusiouns 

To deme by interrogaciotins, 

If that men axed him in certeyn houres, 
(6 Whan that men schuld ban drought or ellys schoures , 

Or if men axed him what schulde bifalle 

Of everything, I may nought reken hem alle. 

This clerk was cleped beende Nicholas; 

Of demo love be cowde and of solas ; 
(y And tberwitb he was sleigh and ful privi, 

And lik a may den meke for to se. 

A chambir had be in that hostillerye* 

Alone, witbouten eny compaignye, 

Ful fetisly i-digbt with berbes soote, 
X<? And he himself as swete as is the roote 

Of lokorys, or eny cetewale. 

His almagest*, and bookes gret and smale, 

1 An example of the way in which the final n of the indefinite 
nrticle is made the agent of changes in words ; thus, a gnof becomes au 
oaf i a nediler, an adder ; a nowch. an ouch ; an eft, a newt : &c. 

' It appears from this passage that the re-established system of permittmg 
students at the University to live in private lodgings was the ancient 
practice. Tlie abuses to which it led, as exemplified in the tale, were 
l)robably the cause of its discontinuance. 

' The Harl. M.S. reads in his hostillerye. It may be observed, that 
it was usual in the University for two or more students to have one 
room.— VV. 

* The Arabs, from wlijui the Western nations derived a great part 


His astiTlabo/ longynpf for his art, 
HLs augryni stooncs,* Icycn faire apart 

J^y Oil schclves coiiclit'cl at his beddes heed, 
His presse i-covered with a faldyng reed. 
And all above thor lay a gay sawtrye, 
Ou wliich he made a-uightes mclodye, 
So swetely, that al the chauibur i-ang j 

i And Angclus ad vmjinem'^ he sang. 

And after that he sang the kynges note ;* 
Ful often blissed was his meiy throte, 
And thus this sweete clerk his tynie spente, 
After his frendes fyndyng and his rente.* 

of their early knowledge of science (see IIallam, Middle Ages, c. i., 
77), called the MeyoAT) ^uirafis of Ptolemy Almegisthi, IVom n/, Arabic 
for the, and /ieytorr), greatest. It was the handbook of astrology at that 

' An instrument for taking the sun's altitude, and making other 
ajtrouoniical observations. Cluiucer has left a treatise on its use, of 
which the introduction, addressed to his ' litel son Louis," is a charming 
e-xaniple of the poet's familiar prose style. In J?peght's time this treati^6 
was still considered the best authority on the branch of astronomy of 
which it treats. 

- Augrim is a corruption of algorithm, the Arabic for numeration. 
Augrim stones were the counters or pebbles anciently used to facilitate 
calculations, which last word is tlcrived from calculus, a pebble. 

■> Uu the Sundays in Advent and Feast of the Annunciation, the 
antiplions and responses, appointed to be sung in the processions and 
other parts of the Human service, are taken from the evangelical 
liistory of the appearance of the Angel Gabriel to the blessed Virgin, 
beginning, ' ilissus est Gabriel aiigelus ad virgiiiem,' This was per- 
haps the song intended in the te.xt. i!ut it is more probably a 
metrical hymn to be found only in the Salisbury or some other local 

^ All the commentators acknowledge themselves unable to point out 
the piece of music intended by ' the kynges note.' Warton supposes 
it to mean a chant royal, or ballad royal, — that is, as I'asquer describes 
it,  a song in honour of God, the holy Virgin, or any other argument 
of dignity.' Hawkins and Hurney cite the passage as illustrative of 
thu cultivation of music in the 14th century. The former passes over 
' tlie kynges note' without observation; the latter lias the following:— 
' The chant royal was an appellation given to jioems on lofty subjects 
in the early times of Kren.'h poetry.' — His. of Mas., ii., 375. This loose 
e.\pliination increases the obscurity. It is more likely that the chant 
Toyal was a .itrain 0/ mii^ic, like the ' Cantus I'eregriuus' of Gregorian 
Psalmody, or (of later date) our ' Grand Chant.' 

^ Living upon what his friends found him, and his own income. 

VOL. I. O 


ii' This carpenter liad weddid newe a wyf; 

Which that he loved more than his lyf ; 
Of eyghteteene yeer sche was of age, 
Gelous he was, and heeld hir narwe in cage, 
For sche was wild and yong, and he was old, 
//^ And demed himself belik a cokewold, 

He knew nat Catoun,' for his wit was rude. 
That bad man schulde wedde his similituda 
INIen schulde wedde aftir here astaat, 
For eelde and youthe ben often at debaat. 
(fS' But syn that he was brought into the snare, 
He moste endure, as othere doon, his care. 
Fair was the yonge wyf, and therwithal 
As eny wesil hir body gent and smal. 
A seynt sche wered, barred al of silk ; 
jf'O A barm-cloth' eek as whit as morne mylk 
Upon hir lendes, ful of many a gore. 
Whit was hir smok, and browdid al byfore 
And eek byhynde on hir coler aboute, 
Of cole-blak silk, withinne and eek withoute. 
^if The tapes of hir white voluper 

Weren of the same sute of hire coler ; 
Hir filet brood of silk y-set ful heye. 
And certeynly sche hadd a licorous eyghe; 
Ful smal y-pulled weren hir browes two, 
^0 And tho were bent, as blak as a slo. 
Sche was wel more blisful on to see 
Than is the newe perjonette tree; 

: Tyrwhitt says that the maxim here ascribed to Caton the French 
form of So, is to be fonnd in a supplement to the mora d:st,chs en- 
titled Facetus, inter Auctores odo Morales, Lugdun. i5a8, m. 

' Due tibi prole parem sponsam moresque venustam, 
Si cum pace velis vitani deducere justam.' 
s This word is derived from the Saxon 6cam. the lap. and i^ therefore 
intcrnreteTin the glossaries an apron; but it seems rather to mean a 
s"rt in general, as being worn ' upon her lendes,' and made to fi h. 
irson^rith 'many a gore.' The «7/«< means not only the gudle.butl.e 
CSuke he LaUu zo^u.; and so the whole of her dress xs uccomited for. 


And softer than the wol is of a wetliir. 

And l)y liir fjuidil liyni,' a jmrs of h-tliir, 
(?S' Tassid witli silk, and perlcd' with hituun. 

In al this worki to seken up and doun 

There nys no man so wys, that couthe thenche 

80 gay a popillot, or such a wenchc. 

For brighter was the schynyng of hir hewe, 
7^ Than in the Tour the noble i-forged newe," 

But of hir song, it was as lowde and ycrne 

As euy swalwe chiteryng on a berne. 

Therto sche cowde skippe, and make game, 

As eny kyde or calf folwyng liis dame. 
jy Hir mouth was sweete as bragat is or meth, 

Or hoord of apples, layd in hay or heth. • 

WynsjTig sche was, as is a joly colt; 

Long as a mast, and upright as a bolt.' 

A broch sche bar upon hir loue coleer, 
$0 As brod as is the bos of a bocleer. 

Hir schos were laced on hir lejrces hcvirhe : 

bche was a primerole, a piggesneyghe,* 

For eny lord have liggyng in his bedde, 

Or yet for eny good yeman to wedde. 
^' Now sir, and eft sir, so bifel the cas. 

That on a day this heende Nicholas 

' Ornamented with knobs of latten, like pearls. 

2 The gold noble of this period was a very beautiful coin: speci- 
mens are engraved in Ituding's Annals of the Coi>ta(ie. It was coined in 
the Tower of London, the place of the principal Loudon mint. — \V. 

3 These two lines are quoted by Drydcn as perfect specimens of the 
heroic metre, and it is ditlicult to believe that Cliaucer could li;ive pro- 
duced tlieni, and many others as perfect, by chance, as the advocates 
of the rhytlimical theory must necessarily suppose. 

* A term of endearment, supfxised by 'lyrwhitt to mean pig's eye, like 
the L;itin a ellus, tlie uyos of the pig lx!ing very small. fSo Doll Tearsheet, 
intending to be very tender, aill.s Falstalf, 'Thou whorcwon little, tidy 
Bartholomew boar-pig." Henry IV., .Vet ii. sc. 4. Sliadwell (I'lays, vol. i. 
}S") U'^js in this sense, not only the word pigxney, but binlsitey. [Pigswy 
means 'pig's eye;' so also birdsney may be either 'bird's eye' or 'birds 
egg,' according to the context. Not only is the form ny for tye found, but 
uynan foreyt*; see llalliwell's ViUionary.—W . \V.S.j 




Fil with this yonge wyf to rage and pleye 
Whil that hir housbond was at Oseneye/ 
As clerkes ben ful sotil and ful queynte. 
^i) And pryvely lie caught hir by the queynte. 
And seyde, ' I- wis, but if I have my wille, 
For derne love of the, lemman, I spille.' 
And heeld hir harde by the haunche boones, 
And seyde, 'Lemman, love me al at ones, 
(iif Or I wol dye, as wisly God me save.' 

And sche sprang out as doth a colt in trave : 
And with hir heed sche wried fast awey. 
And seyde, ' T wol nat kisse the, by my fey ! 
Why let be,' quod sche, 'lat be thou, Nicholas 
10^ Or I wol crye out harrow and alias! 

Do wey pour handes for your curtesye !' 
This Nicholas gan mercy for to crye, 
And spak so faire, and profred him so faste, 
That sche hir love him graunted atte laste, 
l^' And swor hir oth by seynt Thomas of Kent, 
That sche wol be at his commaundement, 
Whan that sche may hir leysii- wel aspye. 
' Myn housbond is so ful of jelousie. 
That but ye wayten wel, and be pryve, 
(lO I woot right wel I am but deed,' quod sche: 
' Ye mosteu be ful derne as in this caas.' 
' Therof ne care the nought,' quod Nicholas : 
* A clerk hath litherly by set his while, 
But if he cowde a carpenter bygyle.' 
//y And thus they ben acorded and i-swom 
To wayte a tyme, as I have told biforn. 

Whan Nicholas had doon thus every del, 
And thakked hire aboute the lendys wel, 
He kist hir sweet, and taketh his sawtrye, 
j\,0 And pleyeth fast, and maketh melodye. 


• An abbey in the suburbs of Oxford, founded by Edward tlie Con 
fessor at the instance, as Lambarde states in his Toporimphiail Dic- 
tionary, of his Queen Editha, who waa directed to the place ' by tb« 
chatterynge of pies." 



Than fyl it thus, that to the parisch cliirche 

Cristes owen workes for to wirche,' 

This goode wyfwcnt on an haly flay; 

Hir foi'heed schon as bright as euy day, 
/lb So was it waisschen, whan sche leet hir werk. 

Now thcr was of that chirche a parisch clerk, 

Tlie which that was i-cleped Ahsolou. 

Cmlle was his hcer, and as the gold it schou, 

And strowted as a fan right large and brood ; 
/J<J Ful strcyt and evene lay his jolly schood. 

His rode was reed, his eyghen gray asgoos, 

With Powles wyndowes'' corven ou his schoos. 

In hosen reed he went ful fctusly. 

I-clad he was ful small and propurly, 
/JJf' Al in a kirtel of a fyn wachct, 

Schapen with goores in the newe get. 

And therupon he had a gay surplys, 

As whyt as is the blosme upon the rys. 

A mery chiUP he was, so God me save; 
/^ Wei couthe he lete blood, and clippe and schave,* 

And make a chartre of lond and acquitaunce. 

In twenty maners he coude skip and daunce, 

' Ironical. 

- Perhaps this means that liis shoes were cut in squares (rather 
lozenges) like panes of glass. In tlie Cistercian statutes the monks 
are forbidden to wear cnlcfos fenegtratos. — T. ."Mr. Wright states 
that three paintings formerly existing on the walls of St. Stephen's 
chapel, Westminster, represented shoes of Chaucer's time, which were 
cut in patterns not unlike the tracery of church windows; and that it 
has been conjectured that the phrase Powks u-indows refers especially 
to the rose window of old St. Paul's, which resembled the ornament on 
one of some beautiful samples of ancient shoes preserved in tlie 
museum of Mr. C. Roach Smith. Mr. Wright gives cuts of these shoes 
in his edition of Chaucer, published by the Percy Society. Figures of 
Buch shoes are not uncommon. 

3 The term child, as is well known ever since the publication of 
ChiUle Harold, was applied in the middle ages to young men. The 
hymn supposed to have been sung in the fire by Shadrach, Mesliech, 
and Abediugo, is called, in the Hook of Common Prayer, the Soug oj 
th- Thrie Chi/dnn. Cliilde Waters, the Child of EUe, and other ex- 
Oinples Docur in Percy's collection. 

•* See ante, p. i55i note 2. 


After tlie scole of Oxenforde^ tlio, 
And with liis legges casten to and fro ; 
iHiT And pleyen songes on a small rubible; 

Tliei--to he sang som tyme a lowde qnynyble.* 
And as wel coude he pleye on a giterne. 
In al the toiin nas brewhous ne taverne 
That he ne visited with his solas, 

Hf'O Ther as that any gaylard tapster was. 

But soth to say he was somdel squaymous 
Of fartyng, and of speche daungerous. 
This Absolon, that jolly was and gay, 
Goth with a senser on the haly day, 

/Jli' Sensing" the wyves of the parisch fast ; 
And many a lovely look on hem he cast, 
And namely on this carpenteres wyf ; 
To loke on hire him thought a mery lyf ; 
Sche was so propre, sweete, and licorous. 

l(/0\ dar wel sayn, if sche had ben a mous, 

' See ante., p. 83, note z. 

2 Qiiynyhle is. probably, formed from the verb quintoire, to play or 
sing a part in fifths. The extra part, above four, in the old separate 
part-books is called quintus, the next scxtits, and so on. A quymjble 
(or quinible) may, therefore, have been a fifth (generally a high tenor, 
or counter tenor, which seems implied by the expression ' lowde 
quynyble';) and this view is supported by the word quatrihle, which 
occurs in a very early treatise on descant. A quynyble then means a 
part extemporized a fifth above the rest ; a practice called also by the 
old musicians ' organizing,' much practised by boys, and consequently 
associated with youthfulness, a sufficient reason for the parish clerk to 
show off in this manner. liubible, or ribible, (absurdly described by 
Speght as a gittern <yr fiddle,) was, no doubt, the Arabian rebcb, or 
rrbab, rendered in Italian rebeca; an instrument of two strings, with a 
finger-board ' fretted,' and played upon by a bow ; in short, a primitive 
violin. The yiterne, or cittern, was a form of guitar, (the same word,) 
each string of which had a duplicate for more rapid articulation, as 
well as to augment the tone. It was played upon by a quill. 

•* It was the custom for the clerks who carried the censers to swing 
them in front of the congregation, so that the perfume was diffused 
over the whole church. Lord Cloncurry, in his Pcrsoiml liecollections, 
gives a curious illustration of the jealousy witli which personal priority 
was regarded ' in administering the honours of the censer ' even in the 
last century. So in the Pcrsime's Tale (de superbid) among the different 
kinds of pride is reckoned the desire to ' ben enctiued, or gon to the 
offrynge before his neghebore.' 


And he a cat, he wold hir hent anoon.* 
Til is parisch clerk, this joly Absolon, 

Hath in his herte such a love longyiig, 

That of no wyf ne took he noon oliryng ;* 
l(>yYov curtesy, he seyde, he wolde noon. 

The moone at night ful cleer and In-ightc schoon, 

And Absolon his giterne hath i-tiike, 

For paramours he seyde he wold awake. 

And forth he goth, jolyf and amerous, 
/7^ Til he cam to the carpeuteres hous, 

A litel after the cok had y-crowe, 

And di-essed him up by a schot' -wyndowo 

That was under the carpenteres wal. 

He syngeth in his voys gentil and smal — 

/ /J* • Now, decre lady, if tlii wille be, 

I praye yow that ye wol rewe on me.' 

Ful wel acordyng to his gyternyng. 

This carpenter awook, and horde him syug, 
And spak unto his wyf, and sayde anoon, 
/$0 'What Alisoun, herestow not Absolon, 

» This thought occurs in a less ridiculous form in the Border Miti>- 
rtre&y, vol. iii.: — 

' gin my love were a pickle of wheat, 
And growing upon yon lily lea, 
And I myself a bonny wee bird, 

Awa wi' tliat pickle o' wheat I wad flee.' 

: The money collected at the offertory was formerly applied partly to 
the maintenance of the ministers of the church (of whom Absolon was 
an inferior one), as ajipears from the verses taken from i Cor. ix., ap- 
pointed in the Book of Common Prayer to be read at that part of the 

s This word occurs in the beautiful ballad of Clerk Sounders, in 
the Border Minstrelsy, vol. ii., in a connexion which shows that it cannot 
mean shut, aa Tyrwhitt supposes : — 

* Then she hasta'en a crystal wand. 

And she has stroken her troth thereon; 

She has given it him out at the shot window. 

With mony a sad sigh and heavy groan.' 

A ^hot ^rindmc was, therefore, probably a sort of bow window, from 
which the inmates might shoot any one attempting to force an intruuc« 
by the door, as Mr. Wright well obsenes. 


That chauntetli thus under oure boures "wal !" 

And sche answered hir housbond therwithal, 

*Yis, God woot, Johan, I heere it every del.' 
This passeth forth ; what wil ye bet than wel ? 
pti Fro day to day this joly Absolon 

So woweth hii'e, that him is wo-bigon. 

He waketh al the night and al the day, 

To kembe his lokkes brode and made him gay. 

He woweth hire by mene and by brocage,* 
ifO And swor he wolde ben hir owne page. 

He syngeth crowyng as a nightyngale; 

And sent hire pyment, meth, and spiced ale, . 

And wafres pypyng hoot out of the gleede f 

And for sche was of toune, he profred meede. 
/ ^if ^01' som folk wol be wonne for richesse, 

And som for strokes, som for gentillesse. 

Som tyme, to schewe his lightnes and maistrye. 

He pleyeth Herod* on a scaflFold hye. 

But what avayleth him as in tliis caasi 
X,ff^ Sche so loveth this heende Nicholas, 

That Absolon may blowe the bukkes horn;* 

He ne had for al his labour bixt a skorn. 

And thus sche maketh Absolon hir ape, 

And al his ernest torneth to a jape. 

1 The narl. MS. reads houre smal. Boure means primarily a chamber. 

2 Woos her by the mediation and intervention or brolcerage of com- 
mon acquaintances. 

3 These were probably the French gaufrcs [which word is in fact only a 
corruption of the English vxtfer. — W. W. S.]. They are usually suld at 
liiirs, and are made of a kind of batter poured into an iron instrument, 
which shuts up like a pair ol suufl'ers. It is then tlirust into tlie lire, and 
when it is withdrawn aiid opened, the gatifre, or wafer, is taken out and 
eiten, ' piping liot out of the gleede,' as liere dLScribed. 

4 This is much in character. The parish clerks always took a prin- 
cipal share in the representation of the mysteries, and playing the part 
of Herod gave Absolon an opportunity of showing himself off to advan- 
tage in the kingly character. In the years 1390 and 1409 tlie parish 
clerks of London .acted plays for eiglit days successively at Clerkenwell, 
in presence of most of the nobility and gentry of the kingdom. — See 
WAtiTON, sect, xxxiv. 

•i This, as it appears, is equivalent to the phrase ' to pipe in an ivy 


i^y Fill soth is this proverbe, it is no lye, 
^len seyn right thus alway, the ney slye 
Maketh the forre Iccf to be lotli.* 
Foi* though that Ahsolon bo wood or wroth, 
Bycanse that he for was from here sight, 

^/P This Nicholas hath stoudon in his light. 
Now bare the wel, thou heende Nicholas, 
For Absolon may wayle and synge alias. 

And so bifelle it on a Satyrday 
This carpenter was gon to Osenay, 

3,/d' And heende Nicholas and Alisoun 
Acordid ben to this conclusioun, 
That Nicholas schal schapen hem a wylo 
This sely jelous housbond to begyle; 
And if so were this game wente aright, 

^t^ Sche schulde slepe in his arm al night, 
For this was hire desir and his also. 
And I'ight anoon, withouten wordes mo, 
This Nicholas no lenger wold he tarye, 
But doth ful softe into his chambur carye 

2.13' Both mete and drynke for a day or tweye. 
And to hir housbond bad hir for to seye, 
If that he axed after Nicholas, 
Sche schulde saye, sche wiste nat wher he "was ; 
Of al that day sche saw him nat with eye; 

2. 3o Sche trowed he were falle in som maladye, 
For no cry that hir mayden cowde him calle 
He nolde answere, for nought that may bifallo. 

Thus passeth forth al that ilke Satyrday, 
That Nicholas stille in his charabre lay, 

Z^^ And eet, and cbank, and dode what him Ie?te 
Til Soneday the sonne was gon to reste. 

This sely carpenter hath gret mervaile 
Of Nicholas, or what thing may him ayle, 

• Gower has this proverb, Conf. Amnnt. iii. 58 : — 

* An olde sawe is, who tliat is slyghe 
In place wher he may be nyghe. 
He maketh the fcrre leef loth.* — T. 


And seyde, ' I am adrad, by seynt Thomas! 
JL^^ It stondetli nat aright with Nicholas; 

God schilde that he deyde sodeinly. 

This world 3£» now ful tykel sikerly; 

I saugh to-day a corps y-born to chirche. 

That now on Monday last I saugh him wirche. 
IL^y Go up,' quod he unto his knave, ' anoon; 

Clepe at his dore, or knokke with a stoon; 

Loke how it is, and telle me boldely.' 

This knave goth him up ful sturdily, 

And at the chambir dore whil he stood, 
Cyo He cryed and knokked as that he were woodj 

' What how? what do ye, mayster Nicholay ! 

How may ye slepen al this longe day?' 

But al for nought, he herde nat o word. 

An hole he fond right lowe upon the boord, 
2S^ Ther as the cat was wont in for to creepe, 

And at that hole he loked in ful deepe^ 

And atte laste he hadde of him a sight. 

This ISTicholas sat ever gapyng upright, 

As he had loked on the newe moone. 
tjCrO Adoun he goth, and tolde his mayster soone, 

In what aray he sawh this ilke man. 

This carpenter to blessen^ him bygan. 

And seyde, ' Now help us, seynte Frideswyde!' 

A man woot litel what him schal betyde. 
2,^i* This man is falle with his astronomye 

In som woodnesse, or in som agonye. 

I thought ay wel how that it schulde be. 

Men schulde nought knowe of Goddes pryvyt^ 

Ye, blessed be alwey a lowed man, 
ajP That nat but oonly his bileeve can.' 

' To cross himself. 

- Seinte Is the feminine form of seint. St. Frideswide was patroness 
of a considerable priory at Oxford, and being a Saxon is invoked with 
the more propriety by the carpenter. — T. 

•* All that he knew in the way of learning was his creed. Learning 
eonsisted primarily in knowing Latin, and in this language even poor 
people were taught to repeat theii- credo, or beli^. 


So ferde another clerk with astronomye ; 

lie walked in the feeldes for to prye 

\j\>»n the storres, what ther schulde bifalle, 

Til he was in a marie pit i-falle.' 
ij^y lie aaugh nat that. But yet, by seint Thomas! 

Me rcweth sore for heende Nicholas; 

He schal be ratyd of his studyyng, 

If that I may, by Jhesu heven kyng ! 

Gete me a staf, that I may nnderspore, 
i fo Whil that thou, Robyn, hevest up the dore : 

He .schal out of his studyyng. as I gesso.' 

And to the chambir dore he gan him dresse. 

His knave was a strong karl for the noones, 

And by the hasp he liaf it up at oones; 
iJ^^And in the floor the dore fil doun anoon. 

This Xicholas sat stille as eny stoon, 

And ever he gapyd up-ward to the ejT. 

This carpenter wende he were in de.speir, 

And hent him by the schuldres mightily, 
2,<J^ And schook him harde, and cryed spitously, 

' What, Nicholas? what how, man? loke adoun; 

Awake, and thynk on Cristes passioun. 

I crowche the from elves and from wightes.' 

Thei'with the night-spel" soyde he anon rightes, 
1 ^J' On the foiu-e halves of the hous aboute. 

And on the threisshfold of the dore withoute. 

1 He alludes to a story told of Tliales by Plato in his Thetetetiis, but 
our author probably read it in the C<^ito Novelle Antiche. N. 36. — T. 

- These spells were probably derived from the ancient exorcisms 
common to the Jewish and Christian churches. — (Acts xix. i3.) When 
u.<iMi by the vulgar they generally consisted of a string of unmeaning 
words of imposing sound. There is an example in iear, Act iii.,3C. iv. : — 
' St. Withold footed thrice the wold, 
He met the night-niare and her nine-fold, 
Bid her alight and her troth plight, 
And aroint tiiee, witch 1 aroint thee !' 
Tvrwhitt, for nyghtes v-rm;/. re.ndt niyliles mare (eeo next page). A curiou.s 
'si>eir in Anglo-Sa.xon, rtscmliling this is given in Uaskk'S Urammar and 
Thorpe's Amilecta. [Dr. U .Murris (Aldine ed.) re.ids Fro nightes mare 
wnje then v.'itk /'nf-r/iw/'/', i.e. ' defend the<\' whieh, tliuugh speculative, is 
ttie only iutelligible reading that haa been suggested.] 


* Lord Jhesu Crist, and seynte Benediglit, 
Blesse this hous from every wikkede wight, 
Fro nyghtes verray, the white Pater-noster; 
J CV Wher wonestow now, seynte Petres soster]' 
And atte laste, heende Nicholas 
Gan for to syke sore, and seyde, * Alias ! 
Schal al the world be lost eftsones nowf 
This carpenter answerde, ' What seystow? 

J ^y What? thenk on God, as we doon, men that swinke.' 
This Nicholas answerde, ' Fette me dryuke ; 
And after wol I speke in pryvytS 
Of certeyn thing that toucheth the and me ; 
I wol telle it non other man certayn.' 

J /O This carpenter goth forth, and comth agayn, 
And brought of mighty ale a large quart. 
Whan ech of hem y-dronken had his part, 
This Nicholas his dore gan to schitte, 
And dede this carpenter doun by him sitte, 

J/>* And seide, ' Johan, myn host ful leve and deere, 
Thou schalt upon thy troiithe swere me heere. 
That to no wight thou schalt this counsel wreye ; 
For it is Cristes counsel that I seye. 
And if thou telle it man, thou art forlore ; 

^ JU> For this vengaunce thou schalt han therfore, 
That if thou wreye me, thou scl:alt be wood.' 
' Nay, Crist forbede it for his holy blood !' 
Quod tho this sely man, ' I am no labbe. 
Though I it say, I am nought leef to gabbe. 

^yif Say what thou wolt, I schal it never telle 

To cliild ne wyf, by him that harwed helle!'^ 

• It was the prevailing belief in the middle ages, founded on ! Peter, 
lii. 19, iv. (5, and Coloss. ii. iS, that our Lord, when he descended into the 
place of departed spirits, preached the Gospel to those who before His 
incarnation, had served God as far as their imperfect knowledge enabled 
them ; tliat he thus made them partakers of the benefits of the atone- 
ment, and rescued tlicm from the prison in wliicli they had been con- 
fined, called the ;/m6«s;3ayr«m. This was called the ' Harrowing of 
Hell,' of which tliere is a beautiful etching in Albert Diirer's Der Kleine 
Passimi. ' In the year 14S7,' says Warton, ' while Henry YII. kept his 
residence at the Castle of Winchester, on occasion of the birth of I'rince 


' Now, Johan,' quod Nicholas, ' I wol not lye : 
I have i-tbiindo in inyn a-strologye, 
As I have loked in tlie mooue bright, 

33^ That now on Monday next, at quarter night, 
Schal talle a reyn, and that so wilde and wood, 
That halt' so gret was never Noes flood. 
This worldc,' he seyde, ' more than an hour 
Schal beu i-dreynt, so hidous is the schour: 

dSy Thus schal mankyndo drench, and leese his lyf.' 
This carpenter answered, ' Alias, my wyf! 
And shal she drenche? alias, myn Alisoun!' 
For sorwe of this he fel almost adoun. 
And seyde, * Is ther no remedy in this caas?' 

tU^ ' Why yis, for Gode,' quod lieende Nicholas; 

* If thou wolt worken aftir loi'e and reed ; 
Thou maist nought workc after thin owen heed- 
For thus seith Salomon, that was ful trewe, 
Werke by counseil, and thou schalt nat rewe.* 

3 i/jT And if thou woi-ken wolt by good couusail, 
I undertake, withouten mast and sail, 
Yet schal I saven hir, and the, and me. 
Hastow nat herd how saved was Noe, 
Whan that our Lord had wax-ned him biforn, 
That al the world with watir schulde be lorn?' 
' Yis,' quod this carpenter, ' ful yore ago,' 
' Hastow nought herd,' quod Nicholas, ' also 
The sorwe of Noe with his felaschipe. 
That he hadde or he gat his wyf^ to schipe? 

Arthur, on a Sunday, during the time of dinner, he was entertained 
with a relisioiis drama called Chrixli (lesctiitnis nd inleros, or Christ's 
descent into hell ' Kepi-'tr. Priorat. S. Swithin. Winton. 3IS. He also 
pive*, from the Ilarl. MSS., a poem on the same subject (since printed 
by llr. llalliwell), beginning — 

* AUe hcrkneth to me now ; 

A strif woUe I tellen ou 

Of .Jhisu ant of Sathan 

Tho .Ihesu wes to helle y-gan.' 
The first edition of tlie Thirty-nine Articles asserted this doctrine ; but 
It was afterwards thoiipht better to leave the members of the Church 
of England to their liberty in interpreting a text of Scripture. 
1 I'rov. ix. 14. 

• This ia probably an allusion to a supposed dispute between Noah 


Him liadde wel lever, I dar wel undertake, 
At tliilke tyme, than alle liis wetheres blake, 
That sche hadde had a schij? hirself allone. 
And therfore wostow what is best to doone? 
This axeth hast, and of an hasty thing 
Men may nought preche or make taryyng. 
Anon go gete us fast into this in 
A knedyng trowh or elles a kemelyn, 
For ech of us ; but loke that they be large. 
In which that we may rowe as in a barge, 
And have therin vitaille sufEsant 
But for o day; fy on the remenant; 
The water schal aslake and gon away 
Aboute prime upon the nexte day. 
But Eobyn may not wite of this, thy knave, 
Ne ek thy mayde Gille I may not save ; 
Aske nought why; for though thou aske me, 
I wol nat tellen Goddes pryvete. 
Sufficeth the, but if that thy witt madde,^ 
To have as gret a grace as Noe hadde. 

and his wife, as represented in tlie religious plays or mysteries (see a nfc, 
p. 1 88, note 3), of which the following specimen is taken from :Mr. 
AVright's edition of the Chester Whitsun Playes, printed for the Shak- 
speare Society : — 

2fbe. Wife, come in, why standes thou there ? 
Thou art ever froward, that dare I swere. 
Come in on Godes halfe ; tyme it were. 
For fear lest that we drowne. 
Wife. Yea, sir, set up your saile, 

And rowe forth with evil haile, 
For withouten anie faile, 

I wil not oute of this towne ; 
But I have my gossepes everich one 
One foote further I \vil not gone : 
They shall not drown, by St. John, 

And I may save their life. 
They loved me full well, by Christ ; 
But thou will let them into thy chist, 
Ellis rowe forth, Noe, when thou list, 
And get thee a newe wife. 
At last Sem, with the assistance of his bretliren, fetches her on board 
by torce; and upon Koah's welcoming her, she gives him a box oq 
the car.  15e mad ; madde is here a verb. 


Tliy wyf sclial I wel saven out of doute. 

Go now thy wey, and speed the heer aboute : 

And wliaii tliDU htist for liir, and tlie, and me, 

I-gotten lis this kuedyng tiibbcs thre, 

Tlian sch lit thou hange hem in the roof ful hie, 

That no man of oure purveaunce aspye ; 

And whau thou thus liast doou as I have seyd, 

And hast our vitaillo faire in hem y-leyd, 

And eek an ax to smyte the corde a-two 

Whan that the water cometh, that we may goo, 

And breke an hole an hye upon the gable 

Into the gardyn-ward over the stable, 

That we may frely passen forth oure way, 

Whan that the grete schour is gon away ; 

Than schaltow swymme as mery, T undertake, 

As doth the white doke aftir hir drake; 

Than wol I clepe, How Alisoun, how Jon,' 

Beoth merye, for the flood passeth anon. 

And thou wolt seye, Heyl, maister Nicholay, 

Good morn, I see the wel, for it is day. 

And than schul we be lordes al oure lyf 

Of al the world, as Noe and his wyf. 

Lut of 00 thing I warne the ful right, 

Tm wel a\'ysed of that ilke uyght, 

That we ben enti'ed into schippes boord, 

That non of us ne speke not a word, 

Ne clepe ne crye, but be in his preyere. 

For it is Goddes owne heste deere. 

Thy ^vyf and thou most haugen fer a-twyune, 

i'or that bitwixe you schal be no synne,* 

' Tlie familiar appellation for Jolian. 
• It was part of the moral theology of that age that matrimony 
almost necosisarily involved the commission of, at least, venial sin. — 
Seo Dens' Tlieology. In the Personc's Tale (remedium contra luxiiriam) 
this doctrine is stated. ' The trewe eflect of mariage clensith fornica- 
cipun, and replcnisciiith holy chirche of good lynage; for that is the 
ende of mariage, and it chaungeth dedtij synne into venijal fynne beticUe 
fum thatlK-n wcddal.' This almost seems a form of .'Maniclieism, a belief 
that matter, and therefore the body, is essentially evil, which, while con- 
demned in terms by the Church, yet became deeply-roottd in her 


No more in lokyng than tlier sclial in dede. 
This ordynaunce is seyd ; ^ so God me speede. 
To morwe at night, whan men ben aslepe, 
Into our kiiedyng tubbes wol we crepe, 
And sitte ther, abydyng Goddes grace. 
Go now thy way, I have no longer space 
To make of thirf no lenger sermonyng ; 
Men seyn thus, send the wyse, and sey no thing; 
Thou art so wys, it needeth nat the teche. 
Go, save oure lyf. and that I the byseche. 
This seely carpenter goth forth his way, 
Ful ofte he seyd, ' Alias, and weylaway ! ' 
And to his wyf he told his pryvete, 
And sche was war, and knew it bet than he, 
What al this queinte caste was for to seye. 
But natheles sche ferd as sche schuld deye. 
And seyde, ' Alks ! go forth thy way anoon, 
Help us to skape, or we be ded echon. 
I am thy verray trewe wedded wyf; 
Go, deere spouse, and help to save oure lyf.' 
Lo, which a gret thing is affeccioun ! * 
A man may dye for ymaginacioun, 
So deepe may im})ressioun be take. 
This seely carpenter bygynneth quake; 
Him thenketh verrayly that he may se 
Noes flood come walldng as the see 
To drenchen Alisoun, liis hony deere. 
He weepeth, wayleth, maketh sory cheere, 
He siketh, with ful many a sory swough. 
And goth, and geteth him a knedyng trough, 

theology. Of this doctrine Coleridge observes, in his Table-Talk, 'Even 
the best aiul most enliglitened men in Romanist countries attach a no- 
tion of impurity to the marriage of a clergyman [he might have carried 
it farther] ; and can such a fceUng be without its effect on wedded life 
in general? Impossibh- ! and the morals of both sexes in Spain, Italy, 
France, &c., prove it abundantly.' The doctrine was probably founded 
on Matt. xix. 13, Exod. xix. 15, i Sam. xxi. 4, i Cor. vU., and forms 
Die key to the eremitic and monastic system. 

' An alTectatiouof the oracular solemnity assumed by fortune-tellers. 

- Fancy. 


And after that a tiibbe, and a kymelyn, 

And pryvely he sent houi to his in, 

And heug hem in the i-oof in piyvete. 

His owne hond than made laddres thre, 

To clymben by tlie ronges and the stalkes 

Unto the tubbes hangyng in the balkes ; 

And hem vitayled, bothe trough and tubbe, 

With breed and cheese, with good ale in a jubbe, 

Suffisyng right ynougli as for a day. 

But or tliat lie had maad al tliis an-ay, 

He sent his knave and eek his wenche also 

Upon his needo to Londone for to go, 

And on the Monday, whan it drew to nyght, 

He schette his dore, withouten candel light. 

And dressed al this thing as it schuld be. 

And schortly up they clumben alle thre. 

They seten stille wel a forlong way : 

* Now, Pater noster, clum,' ^ quod Nicholay, 

And ' clum,' quod Jon, and ' clum,' quod Alisoun. 

This carpenter seyd his devocioun, 

And stille he sitt, and byddeth^ his prayere, 

Ay waytyng on the reyn, if he it heere. 

The deede sleep, for verray bus}Tiesse, 

Fil on this carpenter, right as I gesse, 

Abowten courfew" tjTiie. or litel more. 

For travail of his goost he groneth sore, 

' Tyrwliitt says this word is derived from the Saxon, clumian, to 
miuter. Clum, however, seems to have meant merely silence, the sens* 
in which it appears to be used in the text. 

- To bid is to pray, and bmd is a prayer (German, 6i7?en), hence the 
old expression for saying tl:e English prayer before the sermon was, 
biiliUh'j the beads. 

■' It is generally supposed that the origin of the curfew was an enact- 
ment of Wilham tlie Conqueror ; but if Feshall (Ilitt. of City of Oxford, 
\>. 177) is to be believed, it is of much earlier date. He says, ' The 
custom of ringing the bell at Carfax every night at eight o'clock (called 
ntrfeii: bcU, or cover-fire boll) was by order oj King Aliral, the restorer of 
our University," &c. TIkio are indications in Shakespeare (.Romeo and 
Jiitiet, iv. 4), and in the local histories, that there were two bells, one at 
eight in the evening (properly called the citrfetc), and another at dawn, 
to which the name was improperly applied. 

VOL. I. p 


And eft he roiiteth, for his heed myslay. 
Doun of the hxddir stalketh Nicholay, 
And Alisoun ful softe adoun hir spedde. 
Withouten wordes mo they goon to bedde; 
Ther as the carpenter was wont to lye, 
Ther was the revel and the melodye. 
And thus lith Alisoun and Nicholas, 
In busynesse of myrthe and of solas, 
Till that the belles of laudes^ gan to rynge, 
And freres in the chauncel gan to synge. 

This parissch clerk, this amerous Absolon, 
That is for love so harde and woo bygon, 
Upon the Monday was at Osenay 
With company, him to desporte and play; 
And axed upon caas^ a cloysterer 
Ful pi-y^^ely after the carpenter ; 
And he drough him apai-te out of the chirche, 
And sayde, ' Nay, I say him nat here wirche 
Syn Satirday : I trow that he be went 
For tymber, ther our abbot hath him sent. 
For he is wont for tymber for to goo, 
And dwellen at the Graunge^ a day or tuo. 
Or elles he is at his hous cei'tayn. 
Wher that he be, I can nat sothly sayn.' 

This Absolon ful joly was and light. 
And thoughte, ' Now is tyme wake al night, 
For sikerly I sawh him nought styryng 
Aboute his dore, syn day bigan to spryng. 

' Lauds was a short service sung immediately after matins, which last, 
in religious houses, began (or ought to have begun) to be sung at midnight, 
and could hardly have been concluded in less than two hours : allowing, 
therefore, a short interval for ringing the bells, the time indicated would 
be between two and three o'clock. 

2 By chance, as it wore. 

s Grange is a French word, meaning properly a barn, and was ap- 
plied to outlying farms belonging to the abbeys. The manual labour 
on these farms was performed by an inferior class of monks, called lay- 
brothers, who were excused from many of the requirements of the mo- 
nastic rule (see Flcury, Eccles. Hist.), but they were superintended by 
the monks themselves, who were allowed occasionally to spend some 
days at the Grange for this purpose. — See Schipnianncs TtUe. 


So mote I thiy\'e, I schal at cokkes crowe 

Ful pryvely go kuokke at his wyndowe, 

That stant ful lowe upon liis bowrea wal ; 

To Alisouu tliau wol I tellen al 

jMy love-longyug ; for yet 1 schal not mysse 

That atte leate wey I schal hir kisse. 

Som maner comfoi-t schal I liave, pai-fay ! 

My mouth hath icchud al this longe day; 

That is a signe of kissyng atte leste. 

Al nyght I mette eek I was at a feste. 

Therl'ore I wol go slepe an hour or tweye, 

And al the night than wol I wake and pleye.' 

Whan tliat the firste cok hath crowe, aiioon 

Up ryst this jolyf lover Absolon, 

And him arrayeth gay, at poynt devys. 

But fii-st he cheweth gi'eyn and lycoris, 

To sniellen swete, or he hadde kempt his hecre. 

Under his tunge a trewe love he beere, 

For therby wende he to be gracious. 

He rometh to the carpenteres hous, 

And stille he stant imder the schot wj'ndowe ; 

Unto his brest it rauglit, it was so lowe ; 

And softe he cowhith with a semysoun : 

'What do ye, honycomb, swete Alisoun'? 

My fayre bryd, my swete cynamome, 

Awake, lemman myn, and speketh to me, 

Ful litel thynke ye upon m}' wo, 

That for youre love 1 swelte ther I go. 

No wonder is if that I swelte and swete, 

I morne as doth a lamb after the tete. 

I-wis, lemman, I have such love-longyng, 

That like a turtil trewe is my moomyng. 

I may not ete more than a mayde.' 

' Go fro the wyndow, jakke fool,' sche sayde; 
'As lielp me God, it wol not be, compame.' 
I love another, and elles were I to blame, 

' Compame Is used by poetic licence for cmnpaine, companion, witli 
the force oi friend, or nehjhbour. 


Wei bet than the, by Jhesii, Absolon. 

Go forth thy wey, or I wol cast a stoon ; 

And let me slepe, a twenty devel way !' 

' Alias !' quod Absolon, ' and weylaway ! 

That trewe love was ever so ylle bysett ; 

Thanne kisseth me, syn it may be no bett, 

For Jesus love, and for the love of me.' 

• Wilt thou than go thy wey therwith f quod sche. 

' Ye, certes, lemman,' quod tliis Absolon. 

' Than mak the redy,' quod sche, ' I come anon.' 

This Absolon doun sette him on his knees, 

And seide, ' I am a lord at alle degrees ; 

For after this I hope ther cometh more ; 

Lemman, thy grace, and, swete bryd, thyn ore.' * 

The wyndow sche undyd, and that in hast ; 

' Have doon,' quod sche, ' com of, and speed the fast, 

Lest that our neygheboures the aspye.' 

This Absolon gan wipe his mouth ful drye. 

Derk Avas the night as picche or as a cole, 

Out atte wyndow putte sche hir hole : 

And Absolon him fel no bet ne wers. 

But with his mouth he kist hir naked ers 

Ful savorly. Whan he was war of this, 

Abak he sterte, and thought it was amys, 

For wel he wist a womman hath no berd. 

He felt a thing al rough and long i-herd, 

And seyde, ' Fy, alias ! what have T do f 

' Te-hee !' quod sche, and clapt the wyndow to ; 

And Absolon goth forth a sory paas. 

' A berd, a berd !' quod heende Nicholas ; 

' By Goddes corps, this game goth fair and wel.' 

This seely Absolon herd every del, 

1 Ore is 'favour.' Thus, in a love song of the reign of Edward I., 
printed by Mr. Wright iu his volume of Lyric tocti-y, published by tlie 
Percy Society: — 

' Ich haue loued al this yerthat y may loue na more 
Ich haue siked moni syk, kmmon,for thin ore.' 


And on his lippe he gan for angir hyte; 
And to himsflf he soyde, ' I schid the quyte.' 

Who lubbith now, who frotcth now his lippes 
With dust, with sand, with straw, with clot-h, with 

But Absolon ? that seith ful ofte, ' Alias, 
!My soule bytake I unto Sathanas ! 
But me were lever than alle this toun,' quod he, 

* Of this dispit awroken for to be. 

Alias !' quod he, ' alias ! I nadde bleynt !' 

His hoote love was cold, and al i-queint. 

For fix) that tyme that he had kist her crs, 

Of pai'aniours ne sctte he uat a kers. 

For ho was helyd of his maledye ; 

Ful ofte paramours he gan dcffye, 

And wept as doth a child that is i-bete. 

A soft paas went he over the strcte 

Unto a smyth, men clcpith daun Gerveys, 

That in his forge smythcd plowh-harneys ; 

He schai'pcth schar and cultre bysily. 

This Absolon knokketh al esily, 

And seyde, ' Undo, Gerveys, and that anoon.' 

' What, who art thou V ' It am I Absolon.' 

' What ] Absolon, what ] Cristes swete tree ! 

W^hy ryse ye so rathe 1 benedicite, 

What eyleth you 'i some gay gurl, God it woot. 

Hath brought you thus upon the veryferot ; 

By seinte Noet !^ ye wot wel what I mene.' 

This Absolon ne roughte nat a bene 

Of al his ploye, no word agayn he gaf ; 

For he hadde more tow on his distaf ' 

Than Gerveys knew, and seyde, * Freend so deere, 

That bote cultre in the chymney heere 

• St. Neot was a Saxon saint, and therefore appropriately invoked 
hy tlie blacksmith. 

^ He had other business to think of. The same expression is used 
by Froi«sart, as quoted by Tyrwliiit— ' // aura en irej ttmps autre* 
ai loupes en sa quuwUie.' 


As lene it me, T have therwith to doone ; 

I wol it bring agayn to the ful soone.' 

Gerveys answerde, ' Certes, were it gold, 

Or in a poke nobles al nntold, 

Ye schul him have, as I am trewe smj^th. 

Ey, Cristas fote !^ what wil ye do therwith !' 

' Therof,' quod Absolon, * be as be may ; 

I schal wel telle it the to morwe day;' 

And caughte the cultre by the colde stele. 

Ful soft out at the dore he gan it stele, 

And wente unto the carpenteres wal. 

He cowheth first, and knokketh thenvithal 

Upon the wyndow, right as he dede er. 

This Alisoun answerde, ' Who is ther 

Tliat knokketh so 1 I warant it a theef.' 

' Why nay,' quod he, ' God woot, my sweete leef, 

I am thyn Absolon, o my derlyng. 

Of gold,' quod he, * I have the brought a ryng ; 

My mooder gaf it me, so God me save ! 

Ful fyn it is, and therto wel i-gi-ave ; 

This -wol I give the, if thou me kisse.' 

This Nicholas was rise for to pysse, 

And thought he wold amenden al the jape, 

He schulde kisse his ers or that he shape. 

And up the wyndow dyde he hastily, 

And out his ers putteth he pryvely 

Over the buttok, to the haunche bon. 

And therwith spak tliis clerk, this Absolon, 

' Spek, sweete bryd, I wot nat wher thou art.' 

This Nicholas anon let flee a fart, 

As gret as it had ben a thundir dent. 

And with that strook he was almost i-blent ; 

And he was redy with his yren hoot, 

And Nicholas amid the ers he smoot. 

' This strange profanity of swearing by different parts of the Re- 
deemer's body has a counterpart in the devotions addressed to tliein, 
'J liis particular oath may be considered appropriate to the blacksmith, 
part of whose business consisted in shoeing horses. 


Ot goth the skyn an hande-brede aboute, 

The hoote cultre brente so his toute ; 

And for the smert he wonde for to dye ; 

As lie were wood, anon he gan to crye, 

• Help, watir, watir, lielp, for Goddes herte !' 

This carpenter out of his slumber sterte, 

And herd on crye watir, as he wer wood, 

And thou'dit, ' Alhus, now cometh Noes flood !' 

He sit him up withoute wordes mo, 

And with his ax he smot the corde a-two ; 

And doun he goth ; he fond nowthir to selle* 

No breed ne ale, til he com to the sella 

Upon the floor, and ther aswoun lie lay. 

Up styrt hir Alisoun, and Nicholay, 

And cryden, ' out and harrow !' in the strete. 

The neyghebours bothe smal and grete, 

In ronuen, for to gauren on this man, 

That yet aswowne lay, bothe pale and wan ; 

For with the fal he brosten had his arm. 

But stond he muste to his owne harm, 

For whan he spak, he was anon born doun 

With heende Nicholas and Alisoun. 

They tolden every man that he was wood ; 

He was agast and feerd of Noes flood 

Thurgh fantasie, that of his vanite 

He hadde i-bought him knedyng tubljes thre, 

And hadde hem lianged in the roof above ; 

And that he preyed hem for Goddes love 

To sitten in the I'oof ^^ar compaignye. 

The folk gan lawhen at his fantasye ; 

Into the roof they kyken, and they gape, 

And tome al his harm into a jape. 

For whatsoever the carpenter answerde, 

It was for nought, no man his resoun herde, 

I He found no business or advantage to stop him, till, &e. Tyrwhitl 
quotcii a sixuilar pliraae from the Fabliaux, torn, ii., p. aSi: — 
' Ainc tant come il mist ii. dcsccndre, 
£ie truuva point dc pain ^ VL-udre.' 


Witli otliis greet lie was so sworn adoun, 
That lie was holden wood in ai the toun. 
For every clerk anon right heeld with othir ; 
They seyde, ' The man was wood, my leeve brother;' 
And every man gan lawhen at his stryf. 
Thus swyved was the carpenteres wyf 
For al his kepyng and his gelonsye ; 
And Absolon hath kist hir nethir ye ; 
And Nicholas is skaldid in his towte. 
This tale is doon, and God save al the route. 


WHAN folk hadde lawhen of this nyce caas 
Of Absolon and heende Nicholas, 
Dyverse folk dyversely they seyde, 
But for the moste part they lowh and pleyde ; 
Ne at this tale I sawh no man him greve. 
But it were oonly Osewald the Beeve. 
Bycause he was of carpentrye craft,^ 
A litel ire in his herte is laft ; 
He gan to grucche and blamed it a lite. 
' So theek,'^ quod he, ' ful wel coude I the quyte 
With bleryng of a prowd mylleres ye/ 
If that me luste speke of ribaudye. 
But yk am old ; me list not pley for age ; 
Gi-as tyme is doon, my foddir is now forage.* 

' There appears to have been a strong esiyrit de corps amonj; fellow- 
craftsmen in the middle ages, arising from the necessity of combination 
for mutual protection at a time when the laws were weak. Hence the 
guiUU and confraternities then so prevalent. 

- Put for so thee ich, so may I thrive. Ich, which is also the German 
for I, is often used in Chaucer by the lower orders, who may be sup- 
posed to have retained most of the Saxon forms. It occurs again 
ill otlier places. [See note on p. 70. — W. W. S.] 

i With a trick put upon a proud miller. To blear the eye is, literally, to 
make tlie siglit dim ; metapliorically, to cheat. 

< Jly gnvss has become hay, a metaphor common in Scripture, as in 
Isaiah xl. 6. 


Jly whyte toj) writcth myn okle yeercs ; 

^lyn hert is al so mnulyd as myu heeres ; 

But yit I t'iiYO as doth an open-ers ; 

That ilke fniyt is ever longer the wers, 

Til it he rote in mullok or in stree. 

We olde men, I drcde, so fare we, 

Til we he roton, can we nat be rype ; 

We hoppen alway, whil the world wol pype ; 

For in oure wil ther stiketh ever a nayl, 

To have an hoor heed and a greene tayl,* 

As hath a leek ; for though oure might be doou, 

Oure wil desireth folye ever in oon ; 

For whan we may nat do, than wol we speke, 

Yet in oure aisshen old is fyr i-reke.' 

Foure gledys have we, which I schal devyse, 

Avantiug, lyyng, angur, coveytise. 

This foure sparkys longen unto eelde. 

Oure olde lymes mowcn be unweelde, 

But wil ne schal nat fayle us, that is suth. 

And yet I have alwey a coltes toth. 

As many a yeer as it is passed henne, 

Syn that my tappe of 1}^ bygan to renne. 

For sikirlik, whan I was born, anon 

Deth drough the tappe of lyf,* and leet it goon ; 

And now so longe hath the tappe i-ronne, 

Til that almost al empty is the tonne. 

The streem of lyf now droppcth on the chymbe.* 

The sely tonge may wel rynge and chimbe 

Of wi'ecchedues, that passed is ful yoore : 

With olde folk, sauf dotage, is no more.' 

' Boccaccio has the same allusion. Dec. Introd. to D. 4, ' Che il 
porro habbi il capo biancbi, che la coJa sia venlc' 

- Tyrwhitt remarks that this beautiful metaphor has been used in his 
Eleyij by Gray, who, however, refers to the 169th Sonnet of Petrarch as 
his original. 

3 Another and more refined form of the thought occurs in the Kiwjhtes 

* That schapen was my deth erst than my scherte.' 

' Kiine, Teut., means the prominence of the staves beyond the bead 


Whan tliat oure Host had herd this sermonyng, 
He gan to spake as lordly as a kyng, 
And seyde, ' What amounteth al this wit 1 
What 1 schul we spake al day of holy wryt 1 
The devyl made a reve for to prache, 
Or of a sowter a schipman or a leche.* 
Sey forth thi tale, and tarye nat the tyme; 
Lo hear is Depford, and it is passed prima f 
Lo Grenawich, ther many a schrewe is inne ;' 
It were al tyma thi tale to bygynne.' 

' Now, sires,' quod this Osewold the Reeve, 
* I pray yow alle, that noon of you him greeve. 
Though I answere, and somwhat sette his howve,* 
For leeful is with force force to showve. 
This dronken Myllere hath i-tolde us hear, 
How that bygiled was a carpenter, 

of the barrel. The imagery is very exact and beautiful. — T. This 
word is -still used in Norfolk and Suffolk. 

1 Piobubly an allusion to Phcedrits, lib. i. fab. 14. Whence the 
proverb, ex svtore tncdicus. Ex sutore nauderus is alluded to by 
I'ynson, the printer, at the end of his edition of Littleton's Tamres, 

- The ecclesiastical day, which was also the civil in those ages when 
the Church was the fountain of knowledge and authority, was divided 
into portions, for each of which an office, consisting of psalms, metrical 
hymns, and prayers, was appointed to be said or sung. The first was 
»ia(HW,beginning at midnight; the next prme, at six in the morning; the 
next tierce, at nine ; the next scxt, at twelve ; and the next none, at three ; 
the next was vespers, or evensong, at six ; and the last, before retiring to 
rest, was compline, or completorium. It would appear, however, from the 
fact that noon means twelve o'clock and not three, that time was 
usually counted by reckoning so much 6e/dre each of these hours ; as 
in the Roman Calendar, the days of the month are counted before 
the calends, ides, and nones, and are called pridie calendas, secunda 
calendas, meaning ante calendas. Thus, as soon as six o'clock, prime, 
was past, the time would be counted as so much before tierce; as soon 
as mid-day was past, it would be called none or noon. This is con- 
firmtMl by the fact that in the Shepherd's Almanac noon is mid-day, 
hirjh noon, three o'clock. For passed prime Tyrwhitt reads half-way 
jyrime, which is probably right ; but he supposes it to mean half-way 
between prime and tierce, kcH., half-past seven, whereas it means that 
the middle of the period between matins and prime had arrived ; for, 
the ,s<iuyer, long afterward-;, says: — 'I wol not tarien you, for it is prime.' 
[This, however, probably applies to another day. iiee Scheme, vol. ii. 

I'P i5i-?54] 
3 Greenwich was apparently the Billingsgate of that time. 
* net his hood, meaning the same as set his cap. See ante, p. lot. 


Peraventure in scorn, for I am oon ; 

And 1))' yoiu- leve, I schal him quyte anoon. 

Itight in his clicrlcs termcs wol I speke; 

I pray to God his nekke mot to-breke ! 

He can wel in myn eye see a stalke, 

But in his ownie he can nought seen a balke." 


[Fob the snhjcct of this tale Tyrwliitt supposes that Cliancer 
was indebted to a, fabliau, printed in Barbazan under the title 
of De Gomhert et des Deux Clercs; but Mr. Wright has since 
discovered and pointed out to notice in his Anecdota Lite- 
raria s.noih'iv fahliau on i\\e same subject, which is more 
likely to have been the original. Tlie fable was a favourite 
in the middle ages, and forms the basis of the sixth novel of 
the ninth day in Boccaccio's Decameron; but Chaucer's ver- 
sion is much superior to Boccaccio's, which is more licentious, 
and at the same time so bald, as to appear like the mere 
argument or heading of a chapter. The Reeve, who is repre- 
sented as a ' choleric man,' certainly takes ample vengeance 
for the Miller's redections on his trade. The poetical justice 
of the catastrophe is well preserved ; Deynous Symekyn is 
punished in every particular in which he exhibited an over- 
weening pride. He was a bully, and ho is well beaten. lie 
boasted of stealing the corn belonging to thtJ college, and 
even the toll to which he is entitled is taken from him. He 
was elated by the high extraction of his wife and daughter, 
and in both points he is humbled ; while his cunning expe- 
dient to overreach the two clerks, upon which he dwells with 
so much complacency, is the proximate cause of all his mis- 
fortunes. The sharpness ot the clerks is characteristic of their 
country, the West Hiding of ' canny Yorkshire." It might at 
first be supposed that the fact of the miller's wile's being repro- 

 An allusion to Uatt. vii. 3* 


sented as the daughter of a priest is an example, among many, 
of the hostility with which Chaucer regarded the clergy ; hut it 
seems more reasonable to suppose that he intended it to be 
understood that the priest was a widower, and that Simkin's 
wife was the issue of a marriage contracted before he took 
orders ; otherwise the cu-cumstauces of her birth could hardly 
have been a subject of pride to her husband.] 

AT TrompyBgtoun, nat fer fro Cantebrigge, 
Ther gotli a brook, and over that a brigge, 
Upon the wliiclie brook tlier stant a nrelle : 
And this is verray sothe that I you telle. 
A meller was tlier dwelljrag many a day, 
As eny pecok he was prowd and gay ; 
Pipen he coude, and fisshe, and nettys beete, 
And turne ciippes, wrastle wel, and scheete.' 
Ay by his belt he bar a long pauade, 
And of a swerd ful trenchaunt was the blade. 
A joly popper bar he in his pouclie; 
Ther was no man for perel durst him touche. 
A Scheffeld thwitel bar he in his hose. 
Round was his face, and camois was his nose. 
As pyled as an ape was his skulle. 
He was a market-beter at the fulle. 
Ther durste no wight hand upon him legge, 
That he ne swor anon he schuld abegge. 

A theef he was for soth of corn and niele, 
And that a sleigh, and usyng for to stele. 
His name was hoote deynous Symekyn.'' 
A wyf he hadde, come of noble kyn ; 

1 The miller's skill in fishing and mending nets Ls characteristic both of 
his trade and place of residence. i:ete is still used in Kast Anglia tir 
repa'r. 'Cups' were of course made of wood with a latlie. To schette 
(German, srliirsfen) means, of course, to slioot >vith the long-bow, the 
redoubted weapon of the Knglish yo<iman. 

- Disdainful Simon, of which Siinkin is the diminutive. Tyrwhitt 
observes, that in the middle ages, and even to a comparatively late 
period, the lower orders had no surnames, the want of which was sup- 
plied by a name derived from some personal peculiarity. Hence the 
ixiiression iiulliiis jilitis, a man with no patronymic. 'J'he operatives 


The persoun' of the toun hir faiUr was. 
With hire he gaf ful many a panue of liraa, 
For that Symkyn schuUl in his blood allye. 
Sche was i-fustryd in a nonuerye; 
For Symkyn wolde no wyf, as he sayde 
But sche were wel i-norissclicd and a mayde, 
To saven his estaat and yomanrye.* 
And sclie was proud and pert as is a pye. 
A ful fair sighte was tlier on hem two ; 
Oil haly dayes bifore hir wold he go 
With liis typet y-bounde about his heed; 
And sche cam aftir in a gyte of reed, 
And Symkyn hadde hosen of the same. 
Ther durst no wight clepe hir but madams;* 
^Vas noon so hardy walkyng by the weye, 
That ^vith hir dorste rage or elles pleye, 
But if he wold be slayn of Symekyn 
"With panade, or with knyf, or boydekyn ; 
For gelous folk ben perilous evermo, 
Algate they wolde here wyves wende so. 
And eek for sche was somdel smoterlich, 
Sche was as deyne as water in a dich,* 

and aiiricultiirni labourers in France are to this day known only by 
their bapti.-inial names. When, after the late Revolution, tlie people 
c-Kcted one of their own number to sit in the National Assembly, 
Ii;i\infr no surname, he was called simply Allurt Oiinier. It was 
u.-ual to distinj^uish persons who had risen from a low origin, and con- 
sequently had no patronymic, by the place of tlieir birth, as JIuttliew 
Paris, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas h Kempis. So, in the Afankex Pro- 
logue, the ' Host  had no idea of asking the 3Ionk his surname : — 

' Whether shall I calle you my lord dan Johan, 
Or dauu Tliomas, or elles dan Albon.' 

' It might at first be thought that this was a little bit of scandal 
about the clergy, but sec introduction to tliis tale. 

- To secure his standing in society as a yeoman. 

3 In the opening ProUx/w, the wives of the haberdasher and the otlier 
citizens are described as being proud of this title. It is still applied by 
the common people in Norfolk to untitled ladies. 

•• Tyrwhitt says tlie whole passage is obscure. 'As deyne as water 
in a dich,' seems to alliuie to some fable in which ditchwater showed 
unwarrantable prifle, perhaps like the common one of tlie Pot atid titc 
k'eltU. [The pbra-e 'ileyue as dich-water ' simply means disdainful (.and 


As fill of hokir, and of bissemare. 

Hir tlioiiglite ladyes oughten liir to spare/ 

What foi- hir kynreed and hir nortelrye, 

That sche had lerned in the nonnerye. 

O doughter hadden they betwis hem two, 

Of twenti yeer, withouten eny mo, 

Savyng a child that was of half yer age. 

In cradil lay, and was a proper page. 

This wenche thikke and wel i-growen was, 

"With camoys nose, and eyghen gray as glas ; 

And buttokkes brode, and brestes ronnd and hye, 

But right fail' was hir heer, I wol nat lye. 

The persoun of the toun, for sche was feir, 

In purpos was to maken hir his heir, 

Bothe of his catel and his mesnage, 

And straunge made it of hir mariage.* 

His purpos was to bystow hir hye 

Into som worthy blood of ancetrye ; 

For holy chirche good moot be despendid 

On holy chirche blood that is descendid. 

Therfore he wolde his joly blood honoure, 

Though that he schulde holy chirche devoure.* 

Gret soken hath this meller, oute of doute. 
With whete and malt, of al the loude aboute ; 
And namely ther was a gret collegge, 
Men clepe ifc the Soler-halle^ of Cantebregge, 

hence repellent) as ditch-water. It is a sort of joke ; such water keeps folks 
at a distance, if very e\il-snielling. iSee ricrce the IHouylimaa's C'rtde, 
ed. Skeat, 1. 375.— W. W. S.j 

1 Ladies ought to treat her with consideration. 

" Made it a matter of difficulty to obtain her in marriage. 

3 A satire on the clergy for enriching their families out of the eccle- 
siastical revenues. 

•• The hall with the soler. Before the students in the Universities 
were incorporated, they lived in lodging-houses, called inns, halls, and 
hostels, which were often distinguished by names taken from some 
peculiarity in their construction. One at Cambridge was called 7'ijkd 
0<tlc. And, at O.xford, Oriel College probably derives its name from a 
large messuage, vulgarly known by the name of Lc OriV?c, upon the site 
of which it stands. An oriel or oriol was a porch, as a aolcr seems 
originally to have signified an open giillery at the top of the house, 
tljough latterly it has been used for any upper room. Froissakt, vol. i.. 


Tlier was licre wliete and cek here malt i-giounde. 

Ami ou !i (lay it hapj)e<l in a stnunde, 

Syk lay the luauncyple on a nialedye, 

Men wondtMi wisly that he scliuKlo dye; 

For winch this meller stal both mele and com 

A thousend part more than by torn. 

For ther biforn he stal bat curtoytily ; 

But now he is a theef outraireouslv. 

For which the wardeyn chidde and made fare, 

But therof sctte the meller not a tare ; 

He crakked boost, and swor it was nat so. 

Thanne weren there poore scoleres tuo, 

That dwelten in the halle of which I seye; 

Testyf they w^'re, and lusty for to i)leye ; 

And, oonly for here mirthe and revelrye, 

Uppon the wardeyn bysily they ciye, 

To geve hem leve but a litel stound 

To go to melle and see here com i-grounde; 

And hardily they dursten ley here nekke, 

The meller schuld nat stel hem half a })ekke 

Of corn by sleighte, ne by force hem reve. 

And atte last the warde}Ti gaf hem leve. 

Johan hight that oon, and AlajTi hight that other ; 

Of o toun were they born that highte Strothir/ 

Fer in the North, I can nat telle where. 

This Aleyn maketh redy al his gere. 

And on an hoi's the sak he cast anoon : 

Forth goth AlejTi the clerk, and also Jon, 

With good swerd and with bocler by her side. 

Johan knew the way, that hem needith no gj'de ; 

And at the mylle the sak adoun he layth. 

Alayn spak first: ' Al heil ! Symond, in faith 

c. 2 34, • Les fcmnies de la ville monterent en leurs lo/^is et en sol- 
litr.i.' — T. In Norfolk und Sull'olk the loft in the church tower on 
which the ringers stuud is culled the beUsoler. — I'DUHy's Vocabulary 
of EoM Aiif/lia. 

' This was the valley of Lnnpstroth, or LancJtrothdale, In the West 
Ridint; of Yorkshire, us pointtd out by l>r. \\ liitaker, J!i.'<t. ol Criiren, 
1)49 ?. — W. Any OIK' who has lived in the U rst ItidiiiK will recognize 
the vhi'usculogy of the clerks us still uijcd in thut county. 


How fares thy faire dovigliter and thy wyf V 

' Alayn, welcome,' qiiod Symond, ' by my lyf ! 

And Johan also ; how now ! what do ye here V 

' By God !' quod Johan, ' Symond, need has na peere. 

Him falles^ serve himself that has na swayn, 

Or elles he is a fon, as clerkes sayn. 

Our mancyple, as I hope,^ wil be deed, 

Swa werkes ay the wanges in his heed : 

And therfore I is come, and eek Alayn, 

To grynde oure corn, and carie it ham ageyn. 

I prey you speed us in al that ye may.' 

' It schal be doon,' quod Symkyn, ' by my fay ! 

What wol ye do whil that it is in hande V 

' By God ! right by the hoper wol I stande,' 

Quod Johan, ' and se how that the corn gas inne. 

Yet sawh I never, by my fader kynne ! 

How that the hoper waggis to and fra.' 

Aleyn answerde, 'Johan, and wiltow swal 

Than wol I be bynethe, by my croun ! 

And se how that the mele fallys doun 

Into the trough, that schal be my desport ; 

For, Jon, in faith, I may be of your sort. 

I is as ille a meller as ei'e ye.' 

This mellere smyleth for here nycete, 

• It falls to his lot. Tyrwhitt and Speght read lehoves. 

- This is the vicious mode of speech called by the Greeks aKvpov 
' Such manner of uncoutli speech did the Tanner of Tamworth use to 
King Edward IV.; which tanner having a great while mist:iken him, 
and used very broad talk with him, at length, perceiving by his traine 
that it was the king, was afraid he should be punished for it, and said 
thus, with a certain rude repentance : — 

' / hope I shall be hanged to-morrow,' 
' for I fear me 1 shall be hanged; whereat the king laughed a good,' &c. 
— Arte.ofEiinJhh Poetry. Tyrwhitt enumerates some of the peculiarities 
of these Yorkshiremen's phraseology: — i. They terminate the third 
person singular and the whole plural number in es, instead of eth, or 
en. X. They use a in a great many words where Chaucer generally uses 
o, as swa for so, liame for home, fra for from, hanes for bones, aiies for ones, 
ra for roe. 3. Many of tlieir words are in the obsolete Saxon form, 
as heneti for Jieiis, whilkc (German, ivelcher) for which, alsiva for also, and 
gar for let or 7nal:e. And, finally, lie makes them speak ungrammatically, 
as, '■lis as ille a meller as ere ye.' 


And thought, ' Al this is doon but for a wyle; 

They wcneti that uo niaii may hem bigile. 

But, In' my tlirift, yet sclial 1 blere here ye/ 

For al here 8lei,u;ht and al here philosophie ; 

The more queynte knakkes that they make, 

The more wol I stele whan I take. 

In stede of mele, yet wol I give hem bren. 

The gretLest clerks beth not the wisest men, 

As whilom to the wolf thus spak the mare f 

Of al her art ne counte I nat a tare.' 

Out at the dore he goth ful pryvyly, 

^Vhan that he saugh his tynie sotyly; 

He loketli up and doun, til he hath founde 

The clerkes hors, ther as it stood i-bounde 

Behynde the mylle, under a levesel ; 

And to the hors he goth him faire and wel. 

He strepeth of the bridel right anoon. 

And whan the hors was loos, he gan to goon 

Toward the fen there wilde mares rennc, [thenne. 

Forth with 'wi-he!"^ thurgh thikke and eek thurirh 

This mcller goth agajTQ, and no word seyde. 

But doth his note, and with the clerkes pleyde. 

Til that her corn was fair and wel i-grounde. 

And whan the mele wa.s sakked and i-bounde, 

This Johan goth out, and fynt his hors away, 

And gan to erye, ' Harrow and weylaway ! 

Oure hors is lost! Alcyn, for Goddes banes. 

Step on thy feet, cum on, man, al at anes. 

Alias ! our wai'deyn hath his palfray lorn !' 

This Aleyn al forgeteth mele and corn, 

' See ante, p. ii6, note 3. 
- Mr. Wright says that tlic fable of the Wolf and the Mare is found in 
the o.irly French of lyiKinl le Contrej'ait, from whence it appears to 
liave been taken into the V.naViAh Ilefjiiurd the Fox. Tyrwhitt says that 
the story alluded to iji tolil of a mule, in the d'uto Xov. Antiche, No. 9i . 
The mule pretends that his name is written on the bottom of his hind- 
foot. The wolf attoiiiptiiiK to read it, the mule gives liim a kick on 
the forehead and kills liim ; upon which the fox observet, ' Ogni 
huoino cbe ea lettere nou e savio.' 

> Iniitatiuu of the sound of neighing. 

MT.. r. U 


Al was out of his mynd liis liousbondrye ; 
' What wikkecl way is he gan T gan he orye. 
The wyf cam lepyng in-ward with a ren, 
Sche seyde, ' Alias ! your hors goth to the fen 
With wylde mares, as fast as he may go ; 
Tin thank come on his heed that band him so, 
And he that bettir schuld han knyt the reyne !' 
' Alias !' quod Johan, ' Aleyn, for Cristes peyne \ 
Leg^ doun thi swerd, and I sal myn alswa; 

I is ful wight, God wat, as is a ra ; 

By Goddes hart ! he sal nat scape us bathe. 
Why nad thou put the capil in the lathe 1 

II hail, Aleyn, by God! thou is a fon!' 
This sely clerkes speeden hem anoon 
Toward the fen, bothe Aleyn and eek J on. 
And when the myller sawh that they were gon, 
He half a busshel of the flour hath take. 

And bad his wyf go knede it in a cake. 

He seyde, ' I trowe the clerkes ben aferd ! 

Yet can a miller make a clerkes herd,'' 

For al his art ; ye, lat hem go here way ! 

TiO wher they goon ! ye, lat the children play ; 

They get hym nat so lightly, by my croun !' 

This seely clerkes ronnen up and doun, [derere! 

With ' Keep ! keep ! stand ! stand ! jossa,^ ware 

Ga wightly thou, and I sal keep him heere.' 

But schortly, til that it was verray night. 

They cowde nat, though they did al here might, 

Here capil cacche, it ran away so fast, 

Til in a diche they caught him atte last. 

* The obsolete Saxon form of lay (German, Icgen), as lig is of lie. 

» Cheat him. Faire la barbe is tlie French for to shave, as /aire tcs 
angles is for to cut the nails; but Chaucer, when he uses the expression 
metaphorically, translates it literally. 

3 A word used to horses, meaning, apparently, ' stand still to be 
mounted;' for in East Anglia, the block of wood up to which the 
market horse used to be brought for the farmers wife to mount her 
pillion from is called the jostling (meaning the mounting) iloclc. 


Wery and wete as bestys in the reyn, 

Comth sely Johan, and with him comth Aleyn. 

' Alias!' quod Johan, that day that I Avas born! 

Now are we dryve til hethyni,' and to scorn. 

Oure com is stole, men wohi ns foles calle, 

Bathe the wardeyn and eek our fclaws alle, 

And namely the myller, weyloway !' 

Thus pleyneth Johan, as he goth by the way 

Toward the mylle, and Bayard' in his hand. 

The myller sittyng by the f'yr he fand, 

For it was night, and forther might they nought, 

But for the love of God they him bisought 

Of herberwh and of ese, as for her peny.'' 

The myller sayd agayn, ' If ther be eny, 

Swich as it is, yit schul ye have your part. 

Myn hous is streyt, but ye han lerned art ; 

Ye conue by argumentes make a place 

A myl brood of twenty foote of space. 

Let se now if this place may sufTyse, 

Or make it rom' with speche, as is your gyse.' 

' Now, Symond,' seyde this Johan, ' by seynt Cutli- 

Ay is thou mery, and that is fair answerd. [herd i* 

I liave herd sey, men suld take of twa thinges, 

Slik as he fynt, or tak slik as he bringes. 

But specially T pray the, host ful deere. 

Get us som mote and drynk, and mak us cheere, 

' A common name for a bay horse, as lyart is for a grey. 

- Besouglit him to give them lodging and entertainment, as they 
would pay for it. 

3 Make it roomier, more spacious. Speght reads vomer, but tliis 
spoils the metre. 

•* Johan appropriately swears by St. Cuthbert, a saint held In great 
reverence in the North of England. He retired to the 'semi-island' of 
Lindisfame, as liede calls it, where the remains of a monastery of great 
antiquity still exist; and his body after lii.s death, in the year 6b6, 
was interred tinally somewhere near l)urham, after it had been re- 
moved to various places, on account of the incursions of the Danes; but 
the actual place ot his sepulture is said to b« k«pt tecret by the Koman 
Catholics. — See notes to Mannion. 

a 2 


And we wol paye trewely at the fulle ; 
With empty hand men may na hawkes tulle.* 
Lo heer our silver redy for to spende.' 
This meller into toun his doughter sende 
For ale and breed, and rosted hem a goos, 
And band her hors, he schold no more go loos , 
And in his owne chambir hem made a bed, 
"With schetys and with chalouns fair i-spred, 
Nat from his owen bed ten foot or twelve. 
His doughter had a bed al by hirselve, 
Bight in the same chambre by and by; 
It mighte be no bet, and cause why 
Ther was no rommer herberw in the place. 
They sowpen, and they speken of solace, 
And drouken ever strong ale atte beste. 
Aboute mydnyght wente they to reste. 
Wei hath the myller vernysshed his heed, 
Ful pale he was for dronken,^ and nat reed ; 
He yoxeth, and he speketh thurgh the nose, 
As he were on the quakke or on the pose. 
To bed he goth, and with him goth his "wyf, 
As eny jay sche light was and jolyf, 
So was hir joly whistel wel y-wet," 
The cradil at hire beddes feet is set, 

' To lure, a term of falconry. As few people now-a-dnys have an 
opportunity of witnessing this sport, it may be meniioneil, that, when 
the falcon is thrown oif, she flies round tlie falconer in circles, which 
she continually enlarges till she is out of sight. This is called ' wait- 
ing on.' When she has got sufficiently distant, tlie game is flushed, 
and she immediately darts at it. To recal her when the circles become 
too wide, he throws up a piece of wood, with the wings of a bird fixed 
on it, and attached to a string ; this piece of wood is called the lure or 
tulle. Without this lure, says Joban, a falconer cannot recal his falcon. 
TVMe appears to be the northern word for lure, for the Ifyf of Both* 
gays : — 

' With empty hand man may noon hawkes lure.' 

It occurs in the ballad of Kynge Estmere : — 

' For an thou playest as thou bcginnest, 
Thou'lt till my bride awaye.' 
- lie was all pale for drunkenness. See ante, p. i88, note a. 
3 To wet the whistle is still a vulgar expression for to drink. 


To rokktn, and to give the cliild to souke. 
Aiul whan that dronken wiis al in the cruuke, 
To bedde went the doughter right anon ; 
To bedde goth Aleyn, and also Jon, 
Ther nas no more, him needeth no dwale. 
This meller hath so wj'sly bibbed ale. 
That as an hors he snortitli in his sleep, 
Ne of his tayl bihynd took he no keep. 
His wyf bar him a burdoun, a ful strong, 
Men might her rowtyng heeren a forloug. 
The wenolie routeth eek par companye. 
Aleyn the clerk, that herd this melodye. 
He pokyd Johan, and seyde, ' Slepistow ] 
Herdistow ever slik a sang er now? 
Lo, slik a conplyng is betwix hem alle, 
A wilde fyr upon thair bodyes falle ! 
Wha herkned ever swilk a ferly^ thing? 
Ye, thei sul have the flour of ille endyng ! 
This lange night ther tydes me na rest. 
But yet na foi's, al sal be for the best. 
For, Johan,' sayd he, ' as ever mot I thryve. 
If that I may, yone wenche sal I sw y ve. 
Som esement hath la we schapen us ; 
For Johan, ther is a lawe that says thus, 
That if a man in a point be agreved, 
That in another he sal be releeved.^ 
Oure corn is stoln, sothly, it is na nay, 
And we have had an ylle fitt to day; 
And syn I sal have nan aineudement 
Agayn my los, I wol have esement. 
By Goddes sale! it sal nan other be.' 

' A northern woni, nicaninj; nuirveUotui, and sometimes applied to 
a fairy, as a marvel, or marvellous object. Thus, in Thomas tltt 
Jllij/mer : — 

' True Thomas lay on Iluntlic bank, 
A J'erlie he spied wi* his ee.' 

* A marginal note in the MS. says, 'Qui in uno grnvatur, in alio 
debet relevari.' — W. Wheuco this maxim of law is tuktu Joes uot 


This Johan answerd, ' Aleyn, avyse the; 

The miller is a perlous man,' he sayde, 

' And if that he out of his sleep abrayde, 

He mighte do us bothe a vilonye.' 

Aleyn answerd, ' I count it nat a flye !' 

And up he roos, and by the wenche he crepte. 

This wenche lay upright and faste slepte, 

Til he so neih was or sche might aspye 

That it had ben to late for to crye. 

And schortly for to seye, they weren at oon. 

Now pley, Alein, for I wol speke of Jon. 

This Johan lith stille a forlong whyle or two, 
And to himself compleyned of his woo. 
' Alias !' quod he, ' this is a wikked jape ; 
Now may I say that I am but an ape. 
Yet hath my felaw somwhat for his harm; 
He hath the myllers doughter in his arm ; » 
He auntred him, and has his needes sped, 
And I lye as a draf-sak in my bed ; 
And when this jape is tald another day, 
I sal be held a daf, a cokenay.^ 

' That this is a term of contempt, borrowed originally from the 
kitchen, is very probable. — T. He shows from several passages in old 
authors that it sometimes meant simply a cook But in the sense in 
which it is here used, it probably means an inhabitant of that lubber- 
land so humorously described in the satire quoted from Ilickes by 
Warton, and beginning — 

' Fur in see, by West Spagne, 
Is a lond ihote Cokagne 
* * * * # 

Al of pastees beth the wallis, 
Of fleis, of fisse. and rich met. 
The likefullist that man may et.* 
Cockayne is well known in nurseries,whereit is described as a city whose 
' streets are paved with penny loaves, and whose houses are thatched 
with pancakes, and in which the pigs run about with knives and forks 
stuck in their backs, crying, ' Who'll eat me.' ' To this, no doubt, Hugh 
Bigod alluded in the lines given by Camden, Brit. 467:— 
' Were I in my castle of Bungay, 
Upon the river of Waveney, 
I would ne care for tlie Kingof Cockeney.' 

It occurs also iu the liomance of Merlin, Part II., in an address of King 


tJnhartly is unscly, aa men saith.' 
I wol arise, auJ auntre it, in good fiiith.' 
And up he ros, and softely lie wente 
Unto the cradil, and in his liand it hente, 
And bar it softo unto his heddis feet. 
Soone after this the •vvyl" hir routyng leet, 
And gan awake, and went hir fortli to ]>isse, 
And cam agayu, and gan hir cradel mysse, 
And gi'oped heer and ther, but sclie fond noon. 
* AHas!' quod gche, * 1 had ahuost mysgoon; 
I had ahuost goon to the clcrkes bed, 
Ey, benedicite ! than had I foule i-sped!' 
And fortli sche goth, til sche the cradil fund. 
Sche gropith alway forther with hir hand. 
And land the bed, and thoughte nat but good, 
Bycaiise that the ci'adil by it stood, 
Kat knowyng wher sche was, for it was derk ; 
I3ut faire and wel sche creep in to the clerk, 
And lith ful stille, and wolde han Ciiught a sleep, 
VVithinue a while Johan the clerk up leep, 
And on this goode wyf leyth on ful sore ; 
So mery a fytt ne hadti S'ihe nat ful yore. 
He priketh harde and deepe, as he were mad. 
This joly lyf han this twey clerkes had, 
Til that the thridde cok' bygan to synge. 
Aleyn wax wery in the dawenynge, 

Arthur to a Sftracen, with whom he is about to fight. Mr. Wright is 
iiR'lined to think that the term Cockney is a diminutive of cock, and 
that its first nioauiiip is a puny fellow, and that Chaucer uses it here 
in the sense of want of spirit and courage, without intending any 
allusion to Cockayne. 

' The more modern form of the proverb is, * Nothing venture, 
nothing; have.' 

- Tlie time indicated is sliortly before dawn. The cock was sup- 
posed to crow at three stated hours. Tusscr, in the Fice ilundieil 
Points oj Good Iltisbamlry, i585, p. i-<j, says; — 

' Cocke croweth at midniijht times few above six, 
AVith pause to his neiglibour to answer betwix. 
At three o'clock thicker; and tlicn, as ye knowc, 
Like ' all in to niatliiis,' necre day they doocrowe. 
At m'ulnifiht, at time, ami an hour ycr day, 
Tbey utter their language as well as they may.' 



For he liad swonken al the longe night, 
And seyd, ' Farwel, Malyn/ my sweete wight ! 
The day is come, I may no lenger byde ; 
But evei-mo, wher so I go or ryde, 
I am thin owen clerk, so have T seel !' 
' Now, deere lemman,' quod sche, ' go, farwel ! 
But or thou go, o thing I wol the telle : 
Whan that thou wendist hom-ward by the mell€i 
Right at the entrg of the dore byhynde 
Thou schalt a cake of half a busshel fynde, 
That was i-maked of thyn owen mele, 
Which that I hilp myn owen self to stele. 
And, gi5ode lemman, God the save and kepe !' 
And with that word almost sche gan to weepe. 
Aleyn uprist, and thought, ' Er that it dawe 
I wol go crepen in by my felawe ;' 
And fand the cradil with his hand anon. 
' By God !' thought he, ' al wrong I have i-goon ; 
My heed is toty of my swynk to nyght, 
That makes me that I ga nought aright. 
I wot wel by the cradel I have mysgo ; 
Heer lith the myller and his wyf also.' 
Forth he goth in twenty devel way 
Unto the bed, ther as the miller lay. 
He wende have crope by his felaw Jon, 
And by the myller in he creep anon. 
And caught him by the nekke, and soft he spak, 
And seyde, * Jon, thou swyneshed, awak, 
For Cristes sowle ! and here a noble game ; 
For, by that lord that cleped is seynt Jame, 
As I have thries in this schorte night 
Swyved the myllers doughter bolt upright, 

So in Lear: — 

' He begins at curfew, and walks till th& first cock.' 
And in Macbeth: — 

' "We were carousing till the second cock.' 
' Malyn, or Malkin, appears to be an endearing, or familiar, namt 
for Mary, lilie the modem Molly. 


Whiles thou hast as a coward ben agast.' 
' Ye, false harlot,' quod this mellero, ' hast? 
A! false traitour, false clerk!' quod he, 
' Thou schait be deed, I>y Goddes diguit6 ! 
Who durste be so bold to disparage 
My doughter, that is com of hih lynage?' 
And by the throte-bolle he caught Aleyn, 
And he hcnt him dispitously ageyn, 
And on the nose he smot him with his fest. 
Doun ran the blody streem upon his brest ; 
And in the floor with nose and mouth to-broke 
They walwcden as pigges in a poke ; 
Ancl up they goon, and doun they goon anon, 
Till that the millncr stuml)led at a ston, 
And doun he felle bakward on liis wyf, 
That wyste nothing of this nyce stryf ; 
For sche was falle asleepe a litel wight 
With Jon the clerk, tliat waked al the night, 
And with the falle right out of slepe sche brayde. 
* Help, holy croys of Bromholme !' ' sche sayde, 
*/«. manvs tuas^^ Lord, to the I calle! 
Awake, Symond, the feend is in thin halle! 
My hei-t is broken ! help ! I am but deed ! 
Ther lythe' upon my wombe and on myn heed, 

' Mr. Wright says that a portion of the true cross was supposed to 
he preserved in a reliquary, in the form of a cross, bclonjriii;^ to the 
I'riory of Bromholme, in Norfolk. It was brought to ICiipland, with 
j?rcat ceremony, in I2i3, and tlunccforward became an object of pil- 
grimaRC. ' By the cross (or rood) of Bromholme,' was a common oath. 

- ' In manus tuas commendo spiritum mcum.' were the last 
words of our Saviour on tlie cross, appropriately used in any sudden 
danger. In the notes to Marmion is an account of the death of a 
liermit. He excl.iims, ' -My soul longeth for the Lord, . . Jii 
manus tuns, Dominc, commendo spiritum meum, a vinculis enim mortis 
redemisti me, Domine veritatis. Amen. So he yielded up the ghost 
the eighth day of December, anno Domini 1 159, whose soul God have 
mercy upon. Amen.' The miller's wife, having been brought up in a 
convent, is supposed to have learned to say her prayers in Latin, the^e 
words forming one of the responses for compline. 

S The word one is supplied here by Speght and Tyrwhitt, but it 
spoils the metre, and is unnecessary. Titer lythe means sonwlhinp 


Plelp, Symkyn ! for tins false clerkes fight.' 

Tliis Johan stert up as fast as ever lie might, 

And grasped by the walles to and fro, 

To fynde a staf ; and sche sturt up also, 

And knewe the estres bet than dede Jon, 

And by the wal sche took a staf anon, 

And sawh a litel glymeryng of a light ; 

For at an hool in schon the moone bright. 

And by that light she saiigh hem bothe two ; 

But sikirly sche wiste nat who was who, . 

But as sche saugh a whit thing in hir ye. 

And whan sche gan this white thing aspye, 

Sche wend the clerk had wered a volupeer ; 

And with a staf sche drough hir neer and neer, 

And wend have hit this Aleyn atte fulle, 

And smot this meller on the piled sculle. 

That doun he goth, and cryeth, ' Harrow ! I dye !' 

This clerkes beeten him wel, and leet hym lye, 

And greyth hem wel, and take her hors anon, 

And eek here mele, and hoom anon they goon ; 

And at the millen dore they tok here cake 

Of half a buisshel flour ful wel i-bake. 

Thus is the prowde miller wel i-bete, 
And hath i-lost the gryndyng of the whete. 
And payed for the soper every del 
Of Aleyn and of Johan, that beten him wel ; 
His wyf is swyved, and his doughter als. 
Lo ! such it is a miller to be fals. 
And therto this proverbe is seyd ful soth, 
He thar nat weene^ wel that evyl doth. 
A gylour schal himself bygiled be. 
And God, that sitest in thy mageste. 
Save al this compaignie, gret and smale. 
Thus have I quyt the miller in his tale. 

1 For weene Tyrwhitt substitutes whine, on his own authority. The 
meaning is, ' It buhovos not Iiiin to \vin or acquire good, or (if wc r«ad 
U'e«rxj to expect good, who doeth evil.' 



HTHE Cook of Londone, Avliil the Reeve spak, 

-*- For joye he thought lie clawed him ou the Lak;' 

' Ha, ha !' quod he, ' for Cristes passioua, 

This mellcr hath a scharp conclusioun 

Upon his argument of herburgage. 

Wei seyde Salomon in his langage, 

Ne bryng nat eveiy man into thyn hous,* 

For herburgage by night is perilous. 

Wei aught a man avised for to be 

Whom that he brought into his pryvyt6. 

I pray to God so gyf my body care, 

Gif ever, siththen i highte Hogge of Ware, 

Herd I a better miller set a-werke ; 

He hadde a jape of malice in the derke. 

But God forbede that we stynten heere, 

And therfore if ye vouchesauf to heere 

A tale of me that am a pover man, 

I wol 3"ow telle as wel as I kan 

A litel jape that fel in oure cite.' 

Ourc Host answerde and seyde, ' I graunt it the. 
Now telle on, Roger, and loke it be good ; 
For many a pastoy hastow lete blood. 
And many a Jakk of Dover* hastow sold. 
That hath be twyes hoot and twyes cold. 
Of many a pylgrym hastow Cristes curs ; 
For thy pei-sly they faren yet the wors, 
That they have eten with the stubbil goos ; 
For in thy sclioppe is many a flye loos. 
Now tell on, gentil Roger by thy name, 
But yit I pray the be nought wroth for game j 

' For the joy he experienced In his mind, he could scarcely forbear 
clapping the reeve on the back. 

' Ecclus. xi. 3i. 

3 TjTWJiitt does not understand this line. [JacJe "f tjover was probably a 
le.vtish, lamiliar to Canterbury pilgrims, obviously eaten when hot.] 


A man may seye ful sothe in game and pley.' ^ 

' Thow saist ful sntli,' quod Roger, ' by my fey f 
But soth play quad play, as the Flemyng «aitli i" 
And therfore, Herry Baillif, by thy faith, 
Be thou nat wroth, or we departe her. 
Though that my tale be of an hostyler. 
But natheles I wol not telle it yit. 
But or we departe it schal be quyt.* 
And therwithal he lowh and made chere, 
And seyde his tale, as ye schal after heere. 


APRENTYS dwelled whilom in oure citee. 
And of a craft of vitaillers was he ; 
Gaylard he was, as goldfynch in the schawe, 
Broun as a bery, and a propre felawe, 
With lokkes blak, and kempt ful fetously. 
Dauncen he cowde wel and prately. 
That he was cleped Perkyn Revellour.' 
He was as ful of love and paramour 
As is the honycombe of hony swete ; 
Wel were the wenche that mighte him meete. 
At every bridale wold he synge and lioppe ;* 
He loved bet the taverne than the schoppe. 

For whan ther eny rydyng was in Cheepe,* 
Out of the schoppe thider wolde he lepe, 
And tyl he hadde al that sight i-seyn, 
And daunced wel, he nold nat come ageyn; 

i This line, as well as the next but two, is omitted in MS. Ilari., 
which reads hy myfaia .n the ensuing line, to make it rhyme with tliat 
which follows. — W. „. , . tt 

^ Play in earnest is bad play. Tyrwhitt quotes Sir John Harring- 
ton to the same purpose — ' Soth bourde is no bourde.' 

i See antey p. 220, note 2. 

* Tliis and the following line are omitted in MS. Ilarl. — W. 

5 There were sometimes justs in Cheapside.— Holingshed, vol. ij. p. 
$43. liut perhai)S any procession may be meant.— T 


And gadred him a moyn6 of his sort, 

To hoppe and synge, and make such disport. 

And ther tliey setten stevone for to mcete, 

To pleyen atto dys in such a streto, 

For in the toun ne was ther no prentys 

That fairer cowde caste a peyre dys 

Than Porkyn couthe, and therto he was free 

Of his disponce, in place of pry vyt6. 

That fiind his maystcr wel in his chafTarc, 

For often tyme lie fond his box ful bare. 

For such a joly prentys revelour, 

That haunteth dys, revel, or paramour, 

His maister schal it in his schoppe abye, 

Al have he no part of the mynstralcye. 

For thefte and ryot be convertyble, 

Al can they pley on giterue or rubible. 

Revel and trouthc, as in a lowe degre, 

They ben ful wroth al day/ as ye may see. 

This joly prentys with his mayster bood, 

Til he was oute neygh of his prcntyshood, 

Al were he snybbyd bothe erly and late, 

And som tyme lad with revel into Newgate. 

But atte laste his mayster him bythought 

Upon a day, whan he his papyr" sought, 

Of a proverbe, that saith this same word, 

Wel bette is roten appul out of hord, 

Than that it rote al the remenaunt. 

80 fareth it by a ryotous servaunt; 

It is ful lasse hanu to late him pace, 

Than he schend al the ^ciwaimtes in the place. 

Therfore his mayster gaf him acquitauuce,' 

And bad him go, with sorwe and with meschaunce. 

' The meaning is not obvious. It may be, thfft and riot are con- 
vertible terms (always accompany one anotlier), however pleasant ami 
pay they may appear outwardly; while, on the other hand, revelry and 
truth (or honesty) are every day seen to be at enmity, particularly in 
persons of low degree, who have not the means of maintaining tlia 

' Uis account books. •• The MS Harl. read; acqtteyntaunce. — \V. 


And thus the joly prentys had his leve. 
Now let hym ryot al the night or leve. 
And for ther is no thef withowten a lowke, 
*That helpeth him to wasten and to sowke 
Of that he bribe can, or borwe may, 
Anon he sent his bedde and his aray 
Unto a compere of his owen sort, 
That loved dis, and revel, and disport , 
And had a wyf, that held for contenaunce' 
A schoppe, and swyved for hire sustenaunce.* 

Fye theron, it is so foiile, I wil nowe telle no forther, 

For schame of the harlotrie that seweth after ; 

A velany it were thare of more to spelle, 

Bot of a knyht and his sonnes my tale I wil forthe telle. 


[In the Harleian and other good MSS., the tale of Gamelyn is 
inserted in this place ; and it is retained in this edition as a 
curious specimen of a species of composition long popular among 
the Anglo-Saxon peasantry. In such rude ballads as this, it was 
their delight to celebrate the prowess of their outlawed coun- 
trymen, who, in the fastnesses of the extensive forests which 
then covered the northern parts of the island, set at nought 
the authority of then- Norman conquerors, bid defiance to the 
odious forest laws, and wreaked their vengeance upon the 
Norman prelates who had been intruded into the sees and 
abbeys in the place of the rightful Saxon occupants. To this 

1 The last seven lines are omitted in MS. Harl., but they are evi- 
dently genuine. — W. 

2 As a blind to save appearances. 

3 Here The Cokes Tale ends abruptly. It seems probable, as Tyr- 
whitt supposes, that Chaucer's more mature judjcmcnt convinced him 
that two such tales as the Miller's and the Kecve's were sufficient at a 
time; and that he intended to cancel the Coke's prologue and tale, and 
to proceed at once to Tlte Man of Lawes J^'ologue, 


UatioiKil roelinjj is to be attributed tho extraordinary popu- 
larity of Robin Hood, Adam I?i-ll, Clym of tlio Cio\igh, and 
other bold outlaws of the same stamp, amon<j whom must be 
classed Gamelyn. Indeed, he is associated, under the name of 
' younj^ Ganiwel,* with the heroic Earl of Huntingdon, in the 
ballad of liohin Hood and the Stranger, in Ritson's collec- 
tion. In all these poems the grand merit of the hero is liis 
daring contempt of the law, a trait by no means charac- 
teristic of the Saxons, but the result of their peculiar position 
as a brave and powerful, though conquered, people, governed 
by a foreign aristocracy. 

Tho verse of this tale is that of the other spurious piecejj 
which have been interpolated to supply deficiencies in Hie 
Canterhary Talcs, and is never used by Chaucer. It is ex- 
tremely irregular, but the rliythm or cadence resembles that 
of the verse much used by Surrey, and is obtained by em- 
ploying an equal number of accented syllables in every line, 
while the unaccented ones are added or omitted, almost ad 
Hhitum; and by making an unvarying pause or ca:sura at the 
middle of every verse. 

Though possessed of great merit, and displaying much 
of the quaint humour so congenial to tho English mind, this 
tale has uone of the characteristics of Chaucer's manner ; and 
the fact that when the host of tlie Tabard, in the prologue to 
The Manciple's Tale, calls upon the cook to perform his part 
of the agreement, he makes no reference to his having already 
told a tale, is decisive against its genuineness. If a conjecture 
may be hazarded, it seems not improbable that the poet had 
selected it to form the groundwork of a tale which he in- 
tended to put into the mouth of the yeoman or some other 
of his lower personages ; and that, being found among his 
loose papers after his death, it was here introduced to fill a 
vacant space, by the person who arranged the tales in their 
present order. Ifthisbeso, it is a curious fact that Chau- 
cer's great successor should have confirmed his judgment of 
its capabilities by selecting it as the foundation of the comedy 
of As vua Like itJ\ 


IITHETH, and lestneth, and herknetli aright, 
-^ And ye schul heere a talkyng of a douglity knight; 
Sire Johan of Boundys was his right name, 
He cowde of norture ynough and mochil of game, 
Thre sones the knight had, that with his body he wan ; 
The eldest was a moche schrewe, and sone he bygan.^ 
His bretheren loved wel here fader, and of him were 
agast, [the last. 

The eldest deserved his fadres curs, and had it at 
The goode knight his fader lyvede so yore. 
That deth was comen him to, and handled him ful sore. 
The goode knight cared sore, sik ther he lay. 
How his childi'en scholde lyven after his day. 
He hadde ben wyde Avher, but non housbond he was, 
Al the lond that he had, it was verre purchas.'^ 
Fayn he wold it were dressed amonges hem alle. 
That ech of hem had his part, as it mighte falle. 
Tho sent he into cuntre after wise knightes, 
To helpe delen his londes and dressen hem to rightes. 
He sent hem word by lettres they schulden hye blyve, 
Yf they wolde speke with him whil he was on lyve. 
Tho the knyghtes herden sik ther he lay, 
Hadde they no reste nother night ne day, 
Til they comen to him ther he lay stille 
On his deth bedde, to abyde Goddes wille. 
Than seyde the goode knight, syk ther he lay, 
' Lordes, I you wai-ne for soth, withoiite nay, 
I may no lengere lyven heer in this stounde ; 
For thurgh Goddes wille deth draweth me to grounde.' 
Ther nas non of hem alle that herd him aright, 
That they hadden reuthe of tbat ilke knight, 

• Soon he began to show it. 
- This appears to mean, that tho knight had himself acquired his 
land, and held it in fee simple (verre purclias), not entailed nor 
settled; and that, consequently, he had a rifiht to divide it amoiis liis 
children as lie pleased. The lioiisliond in tliis case means a niau who 
was kept at home looking after his domestic business and his estates, 
nnd who could not be ' wj de wher.' 


And scyde, * .Sir, for Goddea love, ne dismay yoii 

nought ; 
(iod may do bote of bale' tliat is now i-wroucjlit.' 
Thau .sj«ik the goode knight, sik ther he lay, 
' Boote of bale God may sende, I wot it is no nay; 
But I Iiyscke you, knightes, for the love of me, 
Goth and dresseth my lond among my soncs thre. 
And, sires, for the love of God. deleth hem nat amys, 
And foigetith nat Gamelyn, my yonge sone that is. 
Taketh heed to that on, ;\s wcl as to that other ; 
Selde ye see ony eyr helpen his brotlier.' 

Tho leete they the knight lyeu that was nought 
in hele, 
And wenteu in to counseil his londes for to dele ; 
For to delen hem alle to oon, that was her thought, 
And for Gamelyn was yongest, he should have nought. 
Al the lond that ther was they dalten it in two, 
And leeten Gamelyn the yonge withoute lond go. 
And ech of hem seyde to other ful lowde, [cowde.* 

Ills brethcren might geve him lond whan he good 
Wlian they hadde deled the lond at here wille, 
They come agein to the knight ther he lay fulstille, 
And tolden him anon right how they haddou wrought ; 
And the knight there he lay liked it right nought. 
Than seyde the knight, * I sware by scynt Martyu,' 
For al that ye have y-doon yit is the lond myu; 

' God may bring good out of evil. This is a very usual e.xpression 
in the ballnds of the school of Hobin Rood. Thus, in linhin Hocxl and 
fJuy of Gi'-biiriie, wliPii Little John's bow breaks, as lie is about to shoot 
at the Sherjfl' of Nottingham, he exclaims : — 

' Woo worth, woe worth tlioe, wicked wood, 
That ever thou grew on a tree ! 
For now this day thou art mij bale. 
My boote when thou shold be." 
' When he should be of age to know what was right. 
^ Saint Martin was a Hungarian by birth, and served in the array 
under Constaiitius and Julian. He is represented in pictures as a 
Koman knight on hor.-tback, with his sword dividing his cloak into 
two pieces, one of which he gi\ ts to a beggar. He wa.^ a strenuous 
opponent of the, and died at Tours, where his relics were pr*-- 
i«rved and bo!ioured. 

VOL. I. jj 


For Goddes love, neyhebours, stondeth alle stille. 
And I "wil dele my lond after my wille. 
Johan, myn eldeste sone, shall have plowes^ fyve, 
That was my fadves heritage whil he wa? on lyve; 
And my myddeleste sone fyf plowes of loud, 
That I halp for to gete with my right hond; 
And al myn other purchas of londes and leedes 
That I byquethe Gamelyn, and alle my goode steedes. 
And I byseke yow, goode men, that lawe conne of 

For Gamelynes love, that my queste stonde.' 
Thus dalte the knight his lond by his day, 
Right on his deth. bed sik ther he lay; 
And soue aftirward he lay stoon stille, 
And deyde whan tyme com, as it was Cristes wille 
And anon as he was deed, and under gras i-grave, 
Sone the elder brother gyled the yonge knave," 
He took into his hond his lond and his leede, 
And Gamelyn himselfe to clothen and to feede. 
]Ie clothed him and fed him yvel and eek wrothe, 
And leet his londes for-fare and his houses bothe, 
His pai'kes and his woodes, and dede nothing wel, 
And seththen he it abought on his faire fel/ 
So longe was Gamelyn in liis brotheres halle, 
For the strengest of good wil they doutiden him alle ; 
Ther was non therinne nowther yong ne olde 
That wolde wraththe Gamelyn, were he never so bolde, 
Gamelyn stood on a day in his brotheres yerde, 
And bygan with his hond to handlen his bei'de / 
He thought on his londes that layen unsawe, 
"And his faire okes that doun were i-drawe ; 
His parkes were i-broken, and his deer byi-eeved; 
Of alle his goode steedes noon was him byleved ; 

' Meaning a ploiigh-Umd, a commou mode of measiirtfiiuut down to 
the reigns of Klizubetli uud James the First. 

- German, knabo, boy. 

•* He paid or sutl'ered for it on his own head 

* His growing beard reminded him that ho wiu conid to man't 
*irt.atc, and suggested the thoughts wliicli follow. 


ITis howscs were unliilid and ful yvel di,;,'lit. 
Tlio thoufjlito Giiinclyn it wt'iito nought uright. 
Afterward cam his brother walkyngo thare, 
And seyde to Gamely n, ' Is our mete yare?* 
Tho wratlithcd him Oamolyn.and sworby Goddesboolc, 
' Thou shaltgo Iiake tliisolf, I \vil nought be tliy cook.' 
' How? brother Gamelyn, how answerest thou now t 
Thou spake never such a word as thoa dost now.' 

* By my faith,' seyde Gamelyn, ' now me thinketh 

Of alle the harmes that I have I tok never ar heede. 
My parkes ben to-broken, and my deer byreved, 
Of myu armure and my steedes nought is me bileved ; 
Al that my fader me byquath al goth to schame, 
And therfor have thou Goddes curs, brother, by thv 

Than byspak his brother, that rape was of rees,* 
' Stond stille, gidelyng, and hold right thy pees ; 
Thow schalt bo fayu for to have thy mete and thy 

wede ; 
What spekest thou, Gamelyn, of lond other of leede?' 
Thanne seyde Gamelyn, the child' that was ying, 
' Cristes curs mot he have that clepeth me gadelyng ! 
I am no worse gadelyng, ne no worse wight, 
But born of a lady, and geten of a knight.' 
Xe durst he nat to Gamelyn ncra foote go, 
But clepide to him his men, and seyde to hem tho, 
' Goth and beteth this boy, and reveth him his wyt, 
And lat him leren another tyme to answere me bet." 
Thanne seyde the chiUl, yonge Gamelyn, 

• Cristes cui-s mot tluiu have, brother art thou myn ; 
And if I schal algate be beten anon, 

Cristes curs mot thou have, but thou be that oon.' 
And anon his brother iu that grcte hete 
Made his men to fette staves Gamelyn to bete. 
Wluin that everich of hem a staf had i-nome, 
Gamelyn was war anon tho he seigh hem come; 

' Deprived of reason for anger. ^ See ante, p. 197, note J. 

K 2 


Tlio Ganielyn seyli liein come, he loked over al, 
Aud was war of a pestel stood under a wal ; 
Gamclyn was light of foot and thider gan he lepe, 
And drof alle his brotheres men right on an hepe. 
He loked as a wilde lyoun, and leyde on good woon ; 
Tho his brother say that, he bigan to goon ; 
He fley up intil a loft, and schette the dore fast. 
Thus Gamelyn with the pestel made hem alle agast. 
Some for Gamelynes love and some for his eyghe, 
Alle they drowe by halves, tho he gan to pleyghe. 
' What ! how nowf seyde Gamelyn, ' evel mot ye thee ! 
Wil ye bygynne contek, and so sone flee?' 
Gamclyn sought his brother, whider he was flowe, 
And saugh wher he loked out at a wyndowe. 
' Brother,' sayde Gamelyn, ' com a litel ner, 
 And I wil teche the a play atte bokeler.' 
His brother him answerde, and swor by se}Tit Eycher,* 
' Whil the pestel is in thin hond, I wil come no neer: 
Brother, I wil make thy pees, I swere by Cristes ore; 
Cast away the pestel, and wraththe the nomore.' 
' I mot neede,' sayde Ganielyn, ' wraththe me at oones, 
For thou wolde make thy men to breke myne boones, 
Ne had I hadde mayn and might in myn armes, 
To have i-put hem fro me, he wolde have do me harmes.' 
' Gamelyn/ sayde his brother, ' be thou nought wroth, 
For to seen the have harm it were me right loth ; 
T ne dide it nought, brother, but for a fondyng, 
For to loken or thou wei-e strong and art so ying.' 
' Com adoun than to me, and graunte me my bone, 
Of thing I wil the aske, and we scliul saught sone.' 
Doun than cam his brother, that fykil was and felle. 
And was smthe sore agast of the pestelle. 

' • By Saint Richard,' was a favourite oath with the outlaws of Robin 
Hood's stnmp, probably because of his Saxon extraction. • Saint 
Richard, King and Confessor, was sonne to Lotharius, King of Kent, 
who, for the love of Clirist, taking upon him a long in'rogrinat ion, went 
to Rome for devotion to tliat sea (see), and. on his way lionicward.died 
at Lucca, about tlie year of Christ 75o, where his body is kept until tliia 
day, with great veneration, in tlie oratory and chappel lot St. Frigiidian, 
and adorned with an epitaph both in verse and f rose." — Eng. Martyr- 
ologe, 1608. 


lie seyde, * Brother CJ.imelyn, iiske me thy boone, 
And loke thou me blame but I grauute sone.' 
'i'hunue scyde Gamolyn, ' Brother, i-wys, 
And we scluille beu at oon, thou most me grauute this, 
Al that ray fader me byquath whil he was ou lyve, 
Thou most do me it have, gif we schul nat stry ve.' 
' That schalt thou have, Gamelyn, I swore by Crintes 

ore! [have more; 

Al that thi fader the byquath, though thou woldest 
Thy load, that lyth Laye, ful wel it schal be sowe, 
And thyn howsos reysed up, that ben leyd so low.' 
Thus seyde the knight to Gamelyn with mo\vtlie, 
And thought eek of falsnes, ixs he wel couthe. 
The knight thought on tresoun, and Gamelyn on noon, 
And w(.-nt and kist his brother, and tlian they were 

at oon. 
Alias! yonge Gamelyn, nothing he ne wiste 
With which a false tresoun his brother him kiste. 
Litheth, and lestueth, and holdeth your tonge, 
And ye schul heere talkyng of Gamelyn the yonge. 
Thee was ther bysideu cryed a ASTastlyng/ 
And therfor ther was sette \ip a ram and a ryng;* 
And Gamelyn was in good wil to wende therto, 
For to preven his might wliat he cowthe do. 
' Brother,' seyde Gamelyn, ' by seynt liicher, 
Thou most lene me to nyght a litel courser 
That is freisch to the sjiore, on for to ryde; 
I most on an erande, a litel her byside.' 
' By God !' seyd his brother, ' of steedes in my stalle 
Go and chese the the best, and spare non of alle. 
Of steedes or of coursei-s that stonden hem bisyde ; 
And tel me, goode brother, whider thou wolt ryde.' 
' Her byside, brother, is cryed a wrastlyng. 
And therfor schal be set up a ram and a ryng ; 
Moche worschij) it were, brother, to us alle, 
Might I the ram and the ryng bryug home to this halle.' 

' A wrestling matcli was cried or proclaimed beside that ptac«. 
-' See atUc, p. i oo, note i , 


A steede ther was sadeled smertely and ske«t ; 

Gamelyn did a paire spores fast on his feet, 

He set his foot in the styrop, the steede he bystrood, 

And toward the wrastelyng the yonge child rood. 

Tho Gamelyn the yonge was ride oi;t at the gate, 

The fals knight his brother lokked it after thate, 

And bysoughte Jhesu Crist that is heven kyng 

He mighte breke his nekke in that wrastlyng. 

As sone as Gamelyn com ther the place was, 

He lighte doun of his steede, and stood on the gras, 

And ther he herd a frankeleyn wayloway syng. 

And bigan bitterly his hondes for to wryng. 

'Goode man,' seyde Gamelyn, ' why makestowthis fare] 

Is ther no man that may you helpe out of this care V 

' Alias !' seyde this frankleyn, 'that ever was I bore ! 

For tweye stalworthe sones I wene that I have lore ; 

A champioun is in the place, that hath i-wrought me 

For he hath slayn my two sones, but if God hem borwe. 
I wold geve ten pound, by Jhesu Crist ! and more, 
"With the nones I fand a man to handil him sore.'' 
' Goode man,' sayde Gamelyn, ' wilt thou wel doon. 
Hold myn hors, whil my man draweth of my schoon, 
And help my man to kepe my clothes and my steede, 
x\nd I wil into place go, to loke if I may speede.' 
' By God !' sayde the frankeleyn, 'anon it schal be doon ; 
I wil myself be thy man, to drawen of thy schoon, 
And wende thou into the place, Jhesu Crist the 

speede ! 
And drede not of thy clothes, nor of thy goode steede.' 

Barfoot and xmgert Gamelyn in cam, 
Alle that weren in the place heede of him they nam, 
How he durst auntre him of him to doon his might 
That was so doughty champioun in wrastlyng and in 
Up sterte the champioun raply and anoon, [fight. 

Toward yonge Gamelyn he bigan to goon, 
And sayde, ' Who is thy fader and who is thy sire ?^ 
For sothe thou art a grot fool, that thou come hire.' 


Gamolyu auswcrdc the champlouu tho, 

'Thou kncwe wel my tader wliil he couthe go, 

Whiles he was on lyvc, by seint INIartyn ! 

Sir .Tohan of Boundys was his name, and I Gamelyu." 

' Folaw,' seyde the chaui])ioun, ' al so mot I thryve, 

I knew wel thy fader, whil he was on lyve ; 

And thiself, Gamelyn, I wil that thou it heore, 

Whil thou were a yong boy a mocho schrcwe thou 

Than seyde Gamelyn, and swor by Cristes ore, 
' Now I am older woxe, thou schalt me fynd a more.' 
' Be God !' sayde the champioun, ' welcome mote thou 

be ! 
Come thou ones in myn bond, schalt thou never the.' 
It was wel withinne the night, and the moone schon, 
Whan Gamelyn and the champioun togider gou to 

The champioun caste tomes" to Gamelyn that wa.-j 

And Gamelyn stood stille, and bad him doon his best. 
Thanue seyde Gamelyn to the champioun, 
' Thou art fast aboute to brynge me adoun ; 
Now I have i-proved many tornes of thyne, 
Thow most,' he seyde, ' proven on or tuo of myne.' 
(Jainelyn to the champioun yede smartly anon, 
Of alle the tornes that he cowthe he schewed him but 

And kast him on the left syde, that thre ribbes to-brak, 
And therto his oon arm, that gaf a gret crak. 
Thaune seyde Gameiyn smertly anoon, 
• Schal it be holde for a cast,' or elles for noon V 
' By God,' seyd the champioun, ' whether that it bee, 
lie that comes ones in thin hand schal he never thee!' 

' Bepan to go. 
- That is, niado many atteinpt.s to trii) him up and thrivv him, which 
Gwmelyn was, however, prepared for, (prest) and evaded. 

* Spoken ironically, ' Shall it be counted for a fall ?' 


Til an seyde the ivaukeleyn, that had his sones there, 
'Blessed be thou, Gamelyn, that ever thou bore 


The frankleyn seyd to the champioun, of him stood 

him noon eye,^ 
' This is yonge Gamelyn that taughte the this pleye/ 
Agein answerd the champioun, that liked nothing 

' He is a lither mayster, and his pley is right felle ; 
^ith I wi-astled lirst, it is i-go ful yore, 
But I was nevere my lyf handled so sore.' 
Gamelyn stood in the place allone withoute serk. 
And seyd, ' If there be eny mo, lat hem come to werk ; 
The champioun that peyned him to werke so sore, 
It seemeth by his continuance that he wil nomore.' 
Gamelyn in the place stood as stille as stoon, 
For to abyde wrastelyng, but there com noon ; 
Ther was noon with Gamelyn wolde wrastle more. 
For he handled the champioun so wonderly sore. 
Two gentilmen ther were yemede the place, 
Comen to Gamelyn, God give him goode grace ! 
And sayde to hem, 'Do on thyn hosen and thy schoon. 
For sothe at this tyme this feire is i-doon.' 
And than seyde Gamelyn, ' So mot I wel fare, 
I have nought yet halvendel sold up my wai-e.' 
Tho seyde the champioun, ' So brouk I my sweere. 
He is a fool that thereof buyeth, thou sellcth it so 

Tho sayde the frankeleyn that was in moche care, 
' Felaw,' he seyde, ' why lakkest thou his ware? 
By seynt Janie in Galys,"' that many man hath sougit, 
Yet it it to good cheep that thou hast i-bought.' 
Tho that wardeynes were of that wrastlyng. 
Come and broughte Gamelyn the ram and the rjmg. 
And seyden, ' Have, Gamelyn, the ryng and the ram, 
For the best wrasteler that ever hero cam.' 

Means, apparently, ' Of him he stood in no awe.' 
■^ Sec ante, p. ()~, note 2. 


Thus wan GameljTi the ram and tho ryng, 

And went with moche joye home in the mornyn:,'- 

His bi-otliei- seih wher he aim with tlie greto route, 

And bad schittc the gate, and holde him withoute, 

The poi'tcr of his lord was ful sore agast, 

And stert anon to the gate, and lokked it fast. 

Now litheth, and Icstneth, bothe yong and ulde, 
And ye schul hecre gamen of Gamelyn the bolde. 
Gamelyn come tlierto for to have comen in. 
And thanne was it i-schet faste with a pyn; 
Than seyde Gamelyn, ' Porter, undo tho yaie, 
For many good mannes sone stondeth therate.' 
Than answerd the porter, and swor by Goddes berde, 
' Thow ne schalt, Gamelyn come into this yerde.' 
' Thow lixt,' sayde Gamelyn, ' so browke I my chyn !' 
He smot the wyket with his foot, and brak awey the 
The porter seyh tho it might no better be. [97^- 

He sette foot on erthe, and bigan to flee. 
' By my faith,' seyde Gamelyn, ' that travail is i-lore, 
For I am of foot as lighte as thou, though thow ha<:l- 

dest swore.' 
Gamelyn overtook the porter, and his teene wrak, 
And gert him in the neckke, that the bon to-bralc, 
And took him by that oon arm, and threw him in a 

Seven fadmeu it was deep, as I have herd telle. 
Whan Gamelyn the yonge thus hadde pleyed his play, 
AUe that in the yerde were drewen hem away ; 
Theydredilen him ful sore, forwerkes that he wx-oughte, 
And for the fairo company that he thider broughte. 
Gamelyn yede to the gate, and leet it up wyde ; 
He leet in alle maner men that gon in wolil or rydt-, 
And seyde, ' Ye be welcome withouten eny greeve, 
For we wiln be maistres hcer, and aske no man leve. 
Yestiiday I leftc,' seyde yonge Gamelyn, 
' In my brother seller fyve tonne of wyn ; 
I wil not that this compaignye parten a-twynne. 
And ye wil doon after me, while eny sope is thrynne ; 


And if my brother grucche, or make foul cheere, 
Other for spense of mete or drynk that we speuden 

I am oure catour, and here ovire aller purs, 
He schal have for his grucchyng seint Maries curs. 
My brother is a nyggoun, I swer by Cristes ore, 
And we wil spende largely that he hath spared yore ; 
And who that maketh grucchyng that we here dwelle, 
He schal to the porter into the draw-welle.' 
Seven dayes and seven nyght Gamelyn held his feste, 
"With moche myrth and solas that was ther and no 
In a litel toret his brother lay i-steke, [cheste ; 

And sey him wasten his good, but durst he not speke. 
Erly on a mornyng on the eighte day 
The gestes come to Gamelyn and wolde gon here way. 
' Lordes,' seyde Gamelyn, ' wil ye so hye 1 
Al the wyn is not yet y-dronke, so brouk I myn ye.' 
Gamelyn in his herte was he ful wo, 
Whan his gestes took her leve from him for to go ; 
He wold they had lenger abide, and they seyde nay, 
But bitaughte Gamelyn God, and good day. 
Thus made Gamelyn his fest, and brought it wel to 

And after his gestys took leve to wende. 

Litheth, and lestneth, and holdeth youre tonge, 
And ye schul heere gamen of Gamelyn the yonge • 
Herkneth, lordynges, and lesteneth aright, [dight, 

"Whan alle the gestes were goon how Gamelyn was 
Al the whil that Gamelyn heeld his mangerye, 
His brother thouarhton him be wreke with his treccherie. 
Tho Gamelyns gestes were riden and i-goon, 
Gamelyn stood allone, frendes had he noon ; 
Tho after full soone witliinne a litel stounde, 
Gamelyn was i-take and ful hard ibounde. 
Forth com the fals knight out of the selleer, 
To Gamelyn his brother he yede ful neer. 
And sayde to Gamelyn, ' Who made the so bold 
For to stroye my stoor of myn houshold V 


Brother,' seyde Gainelyn, 'wrath the the right nought, 
For it is many day i-gon siththen it was bought ; 
For, brotlier, thou hast i-had, by seyiit ilicher, 
Of litt<?no plowes of loud this sixteue yer, 
And of alle the beestos thou hast foi-tlx bred, 
That my fader nie biquath on liis doth bed ; 
Of al this sixtoiie yeor I gcvc the tlie prow 
For the mete and tlie drjnk that we have spended now.' 
Thanne seyde the fals knyght, evel mot he the, 
' Herkne, brother (Jamelyu, what I wol geve the ; 
For of my body, brother, geten heir have I noon, 
I wil make the myn heir, I swere by seint Johan.' 
' Par raa foy F sayde Gamelyn, ' and if it so be. 
And thou thonke as thou seyst, God yelde it the !' 
Nothing wiste Gamelyn of his broiheres gyle ; 
Therfore he him bigyled in a litel while. 
' Gamelyn,' seyde he, ' o thing I the telle ; 
Tho thou threwe my porter in the cb-aw-welle, 
I swor in that wiaththe, and in that grete moot, 
That thou schuldest be bounde bothe hand and foot ; 
Therfore I the biseche, brother Gamelyn, 
Lat me nought be foi-sworn, as brother art thou myu , 
Lat me bynde the now bothe hand and feet. 
For to holdo myn avow, as I the biheet.' 
'Brother.' sayde Gamelyn, 'al so mot I the ! 
Thou sclialt not be forsworen for the love of me.' 
Tho madi3 they Gamelyn to sitte, might he nat stonde, 
Tyl they had him bounde bothe foot and houde. 
The fals kniLjht his brother of Gamelyn was agast, 
And sent aftir feteres to feteren him fast. 
His brother made lesynges on him ther he stood, 
And told hem that comen in that Gamelyn was wood. 
Gamelyn stood to a post bounden in the halle, 
Tho that comen in ther lokcd on him alle. 
Ever stood Gamelyn even upright ; 
But mete ne drynk had ne non neither day ne night. 
Than seyde Gamelyn, ' Brother, by myn hals, 
Now I have asj)ied thou art a party iiils ; 


Had I wist that tresoun that thou haddest y-lbunde, 

I wolde have geve the strokes or I liad be boixnde 1' 

Gamely n stood bounden still e as eny stoon ; 

Two dayes and two nightes mete had he noon. 

Thanne seyde Gamelyn, that stood y-]jounde stronge, 

' Adam spenser, me thinkth I foste to longe ; 

Adam spenser, now I bysech the, 

For the mochel love my fader loved the, 

Yf thou may come to the keyes, lese me out of bond, 

And I wil parte with the of my free lond.' 

Thanne seyde Adam, that was the spencer, 

' I have served thy brother this sixtene year. 

If I leete the goon out of this hour. 

He wolde say afterward I were a traytour.' 

' Adam,' sayde Gamelyn, 'so brouk I myn hals! 

Thou schalt fynde my brother atte laste fals ; 

Therfor, brother Adam, louse me out of bond, 

And I wil parte with the of my free lond.' 

'' Up s^vich a forward,' seyde Adam, ' i-"svys, 

I wil do therto al that in me is.' 

' Adam,' seyde Gamelyn, ' al so mot I the, 

I wol hold the covenant, and thou wil me.' 

Anon as Adames lord to bedde was i-goon, 

Adam took the keyes, and leet Gamelyn out anoon ; 

He unlokked Gamelyn bothe hand and feet. 

In hope of avauncement that he him byheet. 

Than seyde Gamelyn, ' Thanked be Goddes sonde ! 

Now I am loosed bothe foot and honde ; 

Had I now eten and dronken ai'ight, 

Ther is noon in this hous schuld bynde me this night.* 

Adam took Gamelyn, as stille as ony stoon, 

And ladde him into spence rapely and anon. 

And settc him to soper right in a prive stede, 

And bad him do gladly, and Gamelyn so dcde. 

Anon as Gamelyn hadde eten wel and fyn. 

And tlierto y-dronke wel of the rede wyn, 

' Adam,' seyde Gamelyn, ' what is now thy reed ? 

Wlier T go to my brother and girde of his heed f 


' Gamelyn,' seyde Adam, ' it sclial not be so 

I can techo the a ivfd that is worth the two. 

I wot wel for sotlio tiiat this is no nay, 

We schul have a niangery right on Sonday ; 

Ahliotes and priours many heor sclial bo, 

And other men of holy chirche, as I telle the ; [fast, 

Thow schalt stonde up by the post as thou were hond- 

And I schal leva hem unloke, awey thou may hem cast, 

Whan that they have et(!n and waisschen here hondes, 

Thou schalt biscke hem alle to bryng the out of bondcs ; 

And if they wille borwe the, that were good game, 

Then were thou out of prisoun, and I out of blame ; 

And if everich of hem say unto us na}', 

I schal do another thing, I swere by this day! 

Thou schalt have a good staf and I wil have another, 

And Cristes cm*s have that oon thatfaileth that other !' 

' Ye, for Gode !' sayde Gaundyn, ' I say it for me, 

If I tayle on my syde, yvel mot I the ! 

If we schul algate assoile hem of here syune, 

Warne me, brother Adam, Avhan 1 sclial bygynue.' 

* Gamelyn,' seyde Adam, ' by seynte Chai-ite, 

I wil warne the byforn whan that it schal be; 

Whan I twynk on the, loke for to goon, 

And cast awey the feteres, and com to me anoon.' 

' Adam,' seide Gamelyn, ' blessed be thy bones ! 

That is a good counseil gevj'ng for the nones; 

If they werne me thanne to brynge me out of beudea, 

1 wol sette goode strokes right on here lendes.' 

Tho the Sonday was i-conie, and folk to the feste, 

Faire they were welcomed bothe lest and raeste ; 

And ever as they atte halle dore coinen in, 

They caste their eye on yonge Gamelyn. 

The fals knight his brother, ful of trechory, 

Alle the gestcs that tlier wer atte niangery. 

Of Gamelyn his brother he tolde hem with mouthe 

Al the harm and tho schame that he telle couthe. 

Tho they were served oi' messes tuo or thre, 

Thau seyde Gamelyn, ' How serve ye me I 


It is nought wel served, by God that al made ! 

That I sytte flistyng, and other men make glada' 

The fals knight his brother, ther that he stood, 

Tolde alle his gestes that Gamelyn was wood ; 

And Gamelyn stood stille, and answerde nought, 

But Adames wordes he hekl in his thought. 

Tho Gamel}Ti gan speke dolfully withalle 

To the gret lordes that saten in the halle : 

' Lordes,' he seyde, ' for CrLstes passioun, 

Helpeth brynge Gamelyn out of prisoun.' 

Than seyde an abbot, sorwe on his cheeke! 

' He schal have Cristes curs and seynte Maries eeke, 

That the out of prisoun beggeth other borwe, 

But ever worthe hem wel that doth the moclie sorwe.' 

After that abbot than spak another, 

' I wold thin heed were of, though thou were my bro- 

Alle that the borwe, foule mot hem falle!' [ther; 

Thus they seyde alle that were in the halle. 

Than seyde a priour, y vel mot he thryve ! 

' It is moche skathe, boy, that thou art on lyve.' 

' 0\v,' seyde Gamelyn, ' so brouk I my honi 

Now I have aspyed that freendes have I non. 

Gui-sed mot he worthe bothe fleisch and blood. 

That ever do priour or abbot ony good !' 

Adam the spencer took up the cloth, 

And loked on Gamelyn, and say that he was wroth , 

Adam on the pantrye litel he thought. 

But tuo goode staves to halle dore he brought. 

Adam loked on Gamelyn, and he was war anoon, 

And caste awey the feteres, and he bigan to goon: 

Tho he com to Adam, he took that oo staf. 

And by gan to worche, and goode strokes gaf. 

Gamelyn cam into the halle, and the spencer bothe, 

And loked hem aboute, as they had be wrothe ; 

Gamelyn sprengeth holy-water with an oken spire, 

That some that stoode upright fel in the fire. 

Ther was no lewede man that in the halle stood, 

That wolde do Gamelyn eny thing but gc>od, 


But stood Ix-sydo, ami loet hem bothe werche, 

For they liaiKlo no n.'wtlie ot men ot holy clierche;^ 

Abbot or priour, monk or chanoun, 

That Gamely u overtok, anon they yeeden doun. 

Thcr was non of hem alle that with his stat mette, 

That he made liim overthrowe and quyt him liis dette. 

' Gamelyu,' seyde Adam, ' for seynte Charit6, 

Pay large lyverey, for the love of me, 

And I wil kepe the ilore, so ever hero I masse ! 

Er they ben assoyled ther shan noon passe.' 

' Do^vt the nought,' seyde Gamelyn, ' whil we ben in 

Kep thou wel the dore, and I wol werche heere ; 
Stere the, good Adam, and lat ther noon flee, 
And we schul telle largely how many ther be.' 
' Gamelyn,' seyde Adam, ' do hem but good ; 
They ben men of holy chirche, draw of liem no blood, 
Save wel the croune," and do hem non harmes, 
But brek bothe her legges and sithtlien here armes.' 
Thus Gamelyn and Adam wroughte right fast, 
And pleyden with the monkes, and made hem agast. 

' The hatred of churchmen, of lioly water, jind of everything connected 
with tlie church, ohservaMe in all the ballads of this class, is probably 
in part owinjr to the fact alluded to in the introduction to this tale, 
viz., that \\'illiain the Conqueror and bis immediate successors sys- 
timatically removed the Saxon bishops and abbots, and intruded 
Normans in their stead into all the valuable preferments in England. 
I!ut there were also other grounds for the odium in which those foreign 
prelates were held. Sharing in the duties of the common law judges, 
they participated in the aversion with which the functionaries of the 
law were naturally regardeil by outlaws and robbers ; just as the parson 
who, at the present day, combines the magisterial with the sacerdotal 
oilice, is generally an object of special dislike to thieves and poacherf. 
Numerous e.\am])le3 of the hostility of the outlaws to the hislier clergy 
niul officers of the law will occur to every reader of the ballads of Jtobiu 
Hood. For instance, in the Zy/ei Gei-<e, already quoted, i:obiri tJius 
direct* Little John : — 

' bysshopes and these archebysshoppea. 
Ye shall them beete and bynde; 
The high slieryle of Notynghamc, 
ilym holde ye in your mynde." 
* He say.>(. ironically, • Do not break their heada,' becmiueof the v/o- 
•are, the peculiar muik of the clerical piofeasioa. 


Thider they come rydyng jolily with swaynos, 
But hoin ageu they were i-lad in cartes and in waynes, 
Tho they haddeu al y-don, than seyde a gray frere,' 
' AUas ! sire abbot, what did we now heere? 
Tho that comen hider, it was a colde reed, 
Us hadde ben better at home with water and breed.' 
Whil Gamelyn made ordres^ of moukes and frere, 
Ever stood his brother, and made foul chere ; 
Gamelyn up with his staff, that he wel knew, 
And gert him in the nekke, that he overthrew ; 
A lit el above the girdel the rigge-bon to-barst; 
And sette him in the feteres ther he sat arst. 
' Sitte ther, brother,' sayde Gamelyn, 
' For to colyn thy blood, as I dide myn.' 
As swithe as they hadde i-wroken hem on here foon. 
They askeden watir and wisschen anoon. 
What some for here love and some for awe, 
Alle the servantz served hem of the beste lawe. 
The scherreve was thennes but a fyve myle, 
And al was y-told him in a litel while. 
How Gamelyn and Adam had doon a sory rees, 
Bounden and i-wounded men agein the kinges pees ; 
Tho bigan sone strif for to wake, 
And the scherref aboute cast Gamelyn for to take. 

Now lytheth and lestneth, so God gif you goode fpi ! 
And ye schul hcere good game of yonge Gamelyn. 
Four and twenty yonge men, that heelden hem ful 

Come to the schirref and seyde that they wolde 
Gamelyn and Adam fetten away. 
The scherref gaf hem leve, soth as I you say ; 
They hyeden faste, wold they nought bylynne, 
Til they come to the gate, ther Gamelyn was inne. 

• A Franciscan, or friar minor, the habit of this order being grey. 

* This exi)res.sion seems to mean in-imarily, took order for the monks 
and friars, or disj.osed of them; but it appears to have a secondary 
ironical allubion to the ceremony of ordination, whicli consists in the 
ktyintj on of hcmtl.f, and is as nmch as to say, ' AVhile Gamelyu gava 
these monlis and friars a uew kind of orders,' 


Tlicy knokketl on the gate, the porter was ny, 

And lokod out at an hoi, as man that wiis sly. 

'riie porter haddo byholde horn a litol while, 

ilo loved wel Ganu-lyn. and was adriid of gyle, 

And asked hem withoute what was here wille. 

I'Vn- al the grete company thanne spak but oon, 

' Undo the gate, porter, and hit us in goon.' 

Than seyde the porter, 'So brouke I my chyn, 

Ve schul sey your eraud er ya comen in.' 

' Sey to Gamclyu and Adam, if here wille be, 

We wil speke with hem wordcs two or thre.' 

' Felawe,' seyde the porter, ' stond there stille. 

And I wil wende to Gamelyn to witen his wille.' 

I u went the poi-ter to Gamelyn anoon, 

And seyde, * Sir, I wai'nc you her ben come your foon. 

The scherreves meyne ben atte gate. 

For to take you bothe, schul ye nat skape.' 

' Porter,' seyde Gamelyn, * so moot I wel the ! 

I wil allowe the thy worde.s' wlum I my tyme se; 

Go agayn to the gate, and dwel with hem a while. 

And thou schalt se right sone, porter, a gyle. 

Adam,' sayde Gamelyn, ' looke the to goon ; 

We have foomcn atte gate, and frendcs never oon; 

It ben the schirrefes men, that hidcr ben i-como, 

They ben swore to-gidere that we schul be nome.' 

' Gamelyn,' seyde Adam, 'hye the right blyve, 

And if I faile the this day, evel mot I thryvc ! 

And we schul so welcome the schen-eves men. 

That some of hem schul make here beddes in the den.' 

Atte postcrne gate Guraelyn out went, 

And a good cart staf in his hand he hente ; 

Adam liente sone another gi-et staf, 

For to holpe Gamelyn, and goode strokes gaf. 

Adam folde tweyne, and Gamelyn felde thre, 

The other setten feet on erthe, and bygonne fle. 

• What?' seyde Adam, ' so ever here I masse! 

I have a draught of good wyn, diynk er ye passe.' 

* I »\-:!l pive yen lUv lu-ncfit of, or repay you for, your words, when I 
fee an opportunity. 

Vol . I. s 


« Nay, by God !' sayde they, ' thy drynk is not good, 

It wolde make mannes brayne to lieu in his hood.' 

Gamelyn stood stille, and loked him aboute, 

And seih the scherreve come with a gret route. 

' Adam,' sayde Gamelyn, ' my reed is now this, 

Abide we no lenger, lest we fare amys : 

I rede that we to wode goon ar that we be founde, 

Better is us ther loose than in town y-bounde.' 

Adam took by the bond yonge Gamelyn ; 

And everich of hem tuo drank a draught of wyn, 

And after took her coursers and wenten her way. 

Tho fond the scherreve nest, but non ay. 

The scherreve lighte adoun, and went into the halle, 

And fond the lord y-fetered faste withalle. 

The scherreve unfetered him sone, and that anoon, 

And sent after a leche to hele his rigge-boon. 

Lete we now this fals knight lyen in his care, 
And talke we of Gamelyn, and loke how he fare. 
Gamelyn into the woode stalkede stille, 
And Adam the spenser liked ful ylle ; 
Adam swor to Gamelyn, by seynt Richer, 
' Now I see it is mery to be a spencer, 
That lever me were keyes for to here, 
Than walken in this wilde woode my clothes to tere.' 
« Adam,' seyde Gamelyn, ' dismaye the right nought ; 
Many good mannes child in care is i-brought.' 
And as they stoode talkyng bothen in feere, 
Adam herd talkyng of men, and ney him thought 

thei were. 
Tho Gamelyn under the woode loked aright, 
Sevene score of yonge men he saugh wel adight ; 
AUe satte atte mete in compas aboute, 
• Adam,' seyde Gamelyn, ' now have we no doute. 
After bale cometh boote, thurgh grace of God almight ; 
]Me thynketh of mete and of drynk that I have a sight.' 
Adam lokede tho under woode bowgh, 
And whan he seyh mete he was glad ynough ; 
For he hopede to God for to have his deel, 
And he was sore alonged after a good meel 


As he seyde that wordc, thu mayster outlawe 

Saugh Gamcl}'n and Adam under woode schawe, 

' Yonge men,' soyde the maister, ' by the goode roode, 

1 am war of gestes, God send us non but goode ; 

Yonder ben tuo yonge men, wonder wel adight, 

And paraventure ther ben mo, who so loked aright. 

Ariseth up, ye yonge men, and fettetli liem to me ; 

It is good that we \\dtcn wliat men they bee.' 

Up ther sterten sevene fro the dyner, 

And metten with Gamelyn and Adam spenser. 

Whan they were neyh hem, than seyde that oon, 

' Yeldeth up, yonge men, your bowes and your llooii.' 

Thanne seyde Gamelyn, that yong was of elde, 

' Moche sorwe mot lie have that to you hem yelde ! 

I curse non other, but right myselve, 

They ye fette to yow fyve, thanne ye be twelve.' 

Tho they herde by his word that might was in his arm, 

Ther was none of hem allc that wolde do him harm. 

But sayd unto Gamelyn, myldely and stille, 

' Com afore our maister, and sey to him thy wille.' 

' Yonge men,' sayde Gamelyn, ' by your lewte, 

What man is your maister that ye with be!' 

Alle they answerde withoute lesyng, 

' Oure maister is i-crouned of outlawes kyng.' 

'Adam,' seyde Gamelyn, 'go we in Cristes name; 

He may neyther mete nor drynk werne us for schame. 

If that he be heende, and come of gentil blood, 

He wol geve us mete and drynk, and doon us som good.' 

' By seynt Jame!' seyd Adam, ' what harm that 1 gete, 

I wil auntre to the dore that I hadde mete.' 

Gamelyn and Adam wente forth in feere. 

And they grctte the maister that they founde there. 

Than seide the maister, kyng of outlawes, 

' What secke ye, yonge men, imder woode schawes ?' 

Gamelyn answerde the kyng with his crouuo, 

'He moste ncedes w;dke in woode, that may not 

valke in towne. 
Sire, we walk not ln'cr noon harm for to do, 
But if we meete with a deer, to scheete therto, 

s 2 


As men tliat ben liungry, and mow no mete fynde, 
And ben harde bystad under woode lynde.' 
Of Gamelynes wordes the maister hadde routlie, 
And seyde, ' Ye schal have ynough, havg God my 

He bad bem sitte tber adoun, for to take reste ; 
And bad hem ete and drynke, and that of the beste. 
As they sete and eeten and dronke wel and fyn, 
Than seyd that oon to that other, ' This is Gamelyn/ 
Tho was the maister outlawe into connseil nome, 
And tokl how it was Gamelyn that thider was i-coma 
Anon as he herde how it was bifalle, 
He made him maister under him over hem alle. 
Within the thridde wyke him com tydyng, 
To the maister outlawe that tho was her kyng, 
That he schukle come hom, his pees was i-made ; 
And of that goode tydyng he was tho ful glad. 
Tho seyde he to his yonge men, soth for to telle, 
' Me ben comen tydynges I may no lenger dwelle.' 
Tho was Gamelyn anon, withoute taryyng. 
Made maister outlawe, and crouned her kyng. 

Tho was Gamelyn crouned kyng of outlawes, 
And walked a while under woode schawes. 
The fals knight his brother was scherreve and sire, 
And leet his brother endite for hate and for ire. 
Tho were his bonde-men sory and nothing glade, 
Whan Gamelyn her lord wolves heed^ was cryed and 

made ; 
And sente out of his men wher they might him fynde. 
For to seke Gamelyn under woode lynde. 
To telle him tydynges how the wynd was went, 
And al his good reved, and his men schent.'^ 

1 This was the ancient Saxon formula of outlawry, and seems to 
have been literally equivalent to setting tlie man's head at the same 
estimate as a wolf's head. In the laws of Edward the Confessor, it is 
said of a person who has lied justice, ' Si vero postea rcpcrtus fuorit, et 
retineri possit, vivus regi reddatur, vel caput ejus, si se defenderit. 
Lupinum enim jrcrit caput, quod anglice undjcs-heofod dicitur. Et haec 
est lex communis et Keneralis de omnibus utlagatis.' — W. 

2 On change of possession by the death or outlawry of the Lord of 


Whan they liad him foundi.', on knees they hem sette. 
And adoun witli here hood, and liere lord grette : 
' Sire, wrathtlie' you nought, for the goode roodu. 
For we have brought you tydynges, but they be nat 

IV'ow is thy brother scherreve, and hath the baillye,'"' 
And he hatli endited the, and wolves-heed doth the 

' Alias !' seyde Gamelyn, ' that ever I was so slak 
That I ne hadde broke his nekke, tho his rigge brak! 
Goth, grcteth hem wel, niyn housbondes and wyt,^ 
I wol ben atte nexte schire, have God my lyf,' 
Gamelyn came wel redy to the nexte scliire, 
And ther was his brother bothe lord and sire. 
Gamelyn com boldelych into the moot halle. 
And put adoun his hood among the loixies alle : 
' God save you alle, lordyngcs, that now here be! 
But broke-bak scherreve, evel mot thou the ! 
Why hast thou do me that scliame and vilonye, 
For to late endite me, and wolves-heed me crye?* 
Tho thought the fals knight for to ben awreke, 
And leet take Gamelyn, most he nomore speke ; 
Might ther be nomore grace, but Gamelyn atte last 
Was cast into prisoun and fetered ful fast. 
Gameljni hath a brother that hightc sir Ote, 
As good a knight and heende as mighte gon on foote. 
Anon ther yede a messager to that goode knight. 
And tolde him altogidere how Gamelyn was diglit. 

the Manor, the serfs, or vilains regardant, who went with the property 
of the soil, were liable to pay fines to his successor; and, in a case like 
the present, these i\nv3 would probably be oppressively exacted. 

' A man of Gamclyii's violent temper mijjht be expected to wreak 
his vei-'geance on the elave who brou^rht him evil tidings. This is a 
feeling by no means peculiar to tlie middle ages. 

- That is, ' has obtained the government of the bailiwick.' In 
former times, before the modern system of stinKlin;; armies and muni- 
cipal police was introduced, the high sheriff was ttie ollicer pirsonally 
reaponsible for the peace of his bailiwick, which he niaiutaintd by 
calling out t)ic posse comltatits to a.'^gist him. 

■^ Ihi^ means, apparently, ' My husbandmen and tbeir wives.' 


Anon as sire Ote herde how Gamelyn was adight, 

He was wonder sory, was he nothing light, 

And leet sadle a steede, and the way he nam, 

And to his tweyne bretheren anon right he cam. 

' Sire,' seyde sire Ote to the scherreve tho, 

' We ben but thre bretheren, schul we never be mo, 

And thou hast y-prisoned the best of us alle ; 

Swich another brother yvel mot him bifalle !' 

' Sire Ote,' seide the fals knight, ' lat be thi curs ; 

By God, for thy wordes he schal fare the wiirs; 

To the kynges prisoun anon he is y-nome, 

And ther he schal abyde til the justice come.' 

' Parde !' seyde sir Ote, ' better it schal be, 

I bidde him to maympris, that thou graunt him me. 

Til the nexte sittyng of delyvei'aunce,^ 

And thanne lat Gamelyn stande to his chaunce.' 

' Brother, in swich a fortliward take him to the ; 

And by thi fader soule, that the bygat and me, 

But if he be redy whan the justice sitte. 

Thou schalt here the juggerment foral thi grete witte.' 

' I graunte wel,' seide sir Ote, ' that it so be. 

Let delyver him anon, and tak him to me.' 

Tho was Gamelyn delyvered to sire Ote his brother; 

And that night dwelleden that on with that other. 

On the morn seyde Gamelyn to sire Ote the heende, 

' Brother,' he seide, * I moot for sothe from the wende, 

To loke how my yonge men leden here lyf, 

Whether they lyven in joie or elles in stryf.' 

'Be God!' seyde sire Ote, 'that is a cold reed, 

Now I see that al the cark schall fallen on myn heed ; 

For whan the justice sitte, and thou be nought y-founde, 

I schal anon be take, and in thy stede i-bounde.' 

' Brother,' sayde Gamelyn, ' dismaye the nought. 

For by seint Jame in Gales, that many man hath 

If that God almighty hold my lyf and witt, [sought, 

I wil be ther redy whan the justice sitt.' 

• I demand that lie be granted to me on mainprize, or bail, till tha 
assize for general gaol delivery. 


Than seide sir Ote to Gamelyn, ' God scliiclde tho fro 

schanic ; 
Com whau tliou seest tyme, and bring tis out of 

Lithoth, and lestneth, and holdeth you stille, 
And ye schul here how Gamelyn had al his wille. 
Gamelyn wente agein under woode rys, 
And fond there pleying yonge men of prys. 
Tho was yonge Gamelyn glad and blithe ynough, 
Whan he fond his mery men under woode bough. 
Gamelyn and his men talked in feere, 
And they hadde good game here maister to heere; 
They tolden him of aventures that they hadde founde, 
And Gamcl}Ti hem tolde agein how he was fast 

Whil Gamelyn was outlawed, had he no cors ; 
There was no man that for him ferde the woi-s, 
But abbotes and priours, monk and chanoun;* 
On hem left he nothing whan he might hem nom. 
Whil Gamelyn and his men made mcrthes ryve, 
The fals knight his brother, yvel mot he thryve! 
For he was fast about bothe day and other. 
For to hyre the quest,' to hangen his brother. 
Gamelyn stood on a day, and as he biheeld 
The woodes and the schawes in the wilde feeld, 
He thouirht on his brother how he him beheet 
That he wolde be redy whan the justice seet; 
He thoughte wel that he wolde, withoute delay, 
Come afore the justice to kepen his day. 
And seide to his yonge men, 'Dighteth you yare, 
For whan the justice sit, we moote be thare, 
For I am under Lorwe til that I come, 
And my brother for me to prisoun schal be nome.' 
'By seint Jamel' seyde his yonge men, 'and thou 

rede therto, 
Ovdeyne how it schal be, and it schal be do.' 

' Se« nntt, p. 355, note i. * To lubom the jury. 


Whil GameljTi was comyng ther the justice sat, 
The fals knight his brother, forgat he nat that, 
To huyre the men on his quest to haugeu his brother ; 
Though he hadde nought that oon he wolde have 
Tho cam Gamelyn fro under woode rys, [that other, 
And broughte with him his yonge men of prys. 

* I se wel,' seyde Gamelyn, ' the justice is sette ; 
Go aforn, Adam, and loke how it spette.' 
Adam went into the halle, and loked al aboute, 
He seyh there stonde lordes gret and stoute, 
And sir Ote his brother fetered wel fast : 
Tho went Adam out of halle, as he were aghast. 
Adam said to Gamelyn and to his felaws alle, 
' Sir Ote stant i-fetered in the moot halle.' 
'Yonge men,' seide Gamelyn, 'this ye heeren alle; 
Sire Ote stant i-fetered in the moot halle. 
If God gif us grace wel for to doo, 
He schal it abegge that broughte him thertoo.' 
Thanne sayde Adam, that lokkes hadde hore, 
' Cristes curs most he have that him bond so sore ! 
And thou wilt, Gamelyn, do after my red, 
Ther is noon in the halle schal bere awey his heed.' 
' Adam,' seyde Gamelyn, ' we wiln nought don so, 
We wil slee the giltyf, and lat the other go. 
I wil into the halle, and with the justice speke : 
On hem that ben gultyf I wil ben awreke. 
Lat non skape at the dore ; take, yonge men, yeme ; 
For I wil be justice this day domes to deme. 
God spede me this day at my newe werk ! 
Adam, com on with me, for thou schalt be my clerk.' 
His men answereden him and bade him doon his best, 
' And if thou to us have neede, thou schalt fynde ua 

prest : 
We wiln stande with the, wil that we may dure, 
And but we werke manly, pay us non hure.' 
' Yonge men,' seyde Gamelyn, ' so mot 1 wel the i 
As trusty a maister ye schal fyude of me.' 


Right there the justice sat in the halle, 
lu wonte Gamely a amonges hem alle. 

Gamelyn leet untotore his brother out ot beenrle. 
Thanne seytle sir Ote, his brother that was heeude, 
' Tliou haddest almost, Gamelyn, dwelled to longc, 
For the quest is oute' on me, that I schulde houge.' 
' Brother,' seyde Gamelyn, ' so God gif me good 

rest ! 
This day they schuln ben hanged that ben on thy 

quest ; 
And the justice bothe that is jugges man, 
And the scherreve bothe, thixrgh him it bigan.' 
Than seyde Gamelyn to the justise, 
' Now is thy power y-don, thou most nedes arise ; 
Thow hast geven domes that ben yvel dight, 
I wil sitten in thy sete, and dressen hem aright.' 
The justice sat stille, and roos nouglit anoon; 
And Gamel}Ti clcvede his checke boon; 
Gamelyn took him in his arm, and no more spak. 
But threw him over the barre, and his arm to-brak. 
Durste non to Gamelyn seye but good, 
For-fered of the company that withoute stood. 
Gamelyn sette him doun in the justices sete, 
And sire Ote his brother by him, and Adam at his 

Whan Gamelyn was i-set in the justices stede, 
Herkneth of a bourde that Gamelyn dede. 
He leet fetre the justice and his fals brother, 
And dede hem come to the barre, that oon with that 

Tho Gamelyn had lo thus y-doon, had he no rest. 
Til he had enquered wlio was on the quest 
For to deme his brother, sir Ote, for to honge ; 
Er he wiste which they were it thoughte fol longe. 

' The verdict is delirered. 


But as sone as Gamelyn wiste wlier tliey were, 
He dede hem everichoue fetere in feere, 
And bringen hem to the barre, and sette hem in 
rewe; [schrewe.' 

' By my faith !' seyde the justice, ' the scherreve is a 
Than seyde Gamelyn to the justise, 
' Thou hast y-geve domes of the wors assise, 
And the twelve sisours that weren of the queste, 
They schul ben hanged this day, so have I reste.' 
Thanne seide the scherreve to yonge Gamelyn, 
' Lord I cry the mercy, brother art thou myn.' 
' Therfore,' seyde Gamelyn, ' have thou Cristes curs, 
For and thou were maister, yit I schulde have wors.' 
But for to make short tale, and nought to tarie longe, 
He ordeyned him a queste^ of his men so stronge; 
The justice and the scherreve bothe honged hye, 
To weyven with ropes and with the wynd drye; 
And the twelve sisonrs, sorwe have that rekke ! 
AUe they were hanged faste by the nekke. 
Thus ended the fals knight with his treccherie. 
That ever had i-lad his iyf in falsnes and folye ; 
He was hanged by the nek, and nought by the piirs, 
That was the meede that he had for his fadi'os curs. 
Sir Ote was eldest, and Gamelyn was ying, 
They wenten with here freendes even to the kyng; 
They made pees with the kyng of the best assise. 
The kyng loved wel sir Ote, and made him a justise. 
And after the kyng made Gamelyn, both in est and 
Chef justice of al his fre forest f [west, 

Alle his wighte yonge men the kyng forgaf here gilt. 
And sitthen in good office the kyng hem hath i-pilt. 

1 He chose a jury. 
- This is the usual di'nouement of all the tales of this class, and it 
may possibly be founded upon fact. For it might be sound policy on 
the king's part to enlist the services of a bold and popular outlaw, like 
Gamelyn, in the cause of order, at a time when personal valour and 
daring were often able to set the law at defiance. An honest but inex- 
perienced and unwarlike magistrate would have been of very little use 
in a forest in NottinghamBhire in the thirteenth century. 


Tluis wan G.imeljni his lond and his leedc, 

Aud wrak him of his enemys, and quyt hem here 

And sire Ote his brother made him his heir, 
A.nd siththen wedded Gamelyn a wyf bothe good and 

They lyveden togidere whil that Crist wolde, 
And sithen was Gamelyn graven under molde. 
And so schal we alle, may ther no man lie : 
God bryng us to the joye that ever schal be I 


/^WRE Hoste sawh that the brighte sonne 

^ The arke of his artificial day hath i-ronne 

The foiirthe part, of half an hour and more ; 

And though he were nat depe expert in lore, 

He wist it was the eightetene day^ 

Of April, that is messanger to May ; 

And sawe wel that the scbade of every tree 

Was in the lengthe the same quantite 

That was the body erecte, that caused it ; 

And therfore by the schadwe he took his wit, 

That Phebus, which that schoon so fair and brijrht. 

Degrees was five and fourty clombe on hight; 

And for that day, as in that latitude. 

It was ten of the clokke, he gan conclude ; 

And sodeynly he plight his hors aboute. 

' Lordynges,' quod he, * I warne you al the route, 

The fourthe party of this day is goon ; 

Now, for the love of God and of seint Jon, 

Leseth no tjTiie, as ferforth'' as ye may, 

Lordynges, the tyme passeth night and day, 

' Eightetene. This is the reading in wliich tlie MSS. seem mostly to 
agree. The MS. Harl. reads threttenthe. Tyrwhitt has eighte and 
twenty. — W. 

- The Ilarl. MS. reads, fortlie. Ferforth in the text is taken from 
Tyrwhitt, and is probably correct, as agreeing better both with the 
sense and metre. 


And stelith fro us, wliat pryvely slepyng, 
And what thurgh necligence in oure wakyng, 
As doth the streem, that tometh never agayn, 
Descendyng fro the mounteyn into playn, 
Wei can Senek and many philosopher 
Bywaylen time, more than gold in cofre. 
For losse of catel may recovered be, 
But loase of tyme schendeth us, quod he. 
It wil nat come agajm, withoute drede, 
Nomore than wol Malkyns maydenhede/ 
Whan ache had lost it in hir wantownease. 
Let U3 nat mowlen thus in ydelnesse. 

' Sir Man of La we ' quod he, ' so have ye blisse 
Telle ti3 a tale anon, as forward ys. 
Ye be submitted thurgh your fre assent 
To stonden in this cas at my juggement. 
Acquyteth yow, and holdeth youre byheate ; 
Than have ye doon your devour atte leste.' 

' Host,' quod he, ' De par Bieux jeo assenie* 
To breke forward is nat myn entent. 
Byheste is dette, and I wol holde fayn 
AJ my byhest, I can no better sayn. 
For such la we as a man geveth another wight. 
He schuld himselve usen it by right. 
Thus wol oure text :* but nathelea certeyn 
I can right now non other tale seyn, 

' A prov^erbial phraae, occurring, aa Tyrwhitt observes, in Pier» 
Ploicttum : — 

* Te have no more merit 
Of maaae ne of honrea. 
Than Malkyn of hire maidenhood 
That no man deaireth.' 

* The Harl. M3. reads Depardfnx I aaaent; that in the text is taken 
from Tyrwhitt. The lawyer ia thna made characteristically to nse the 
law terms in French, which was then the language of the courts, 
though a statute, passed 35 Edward III., enacted that all pleas ahould 
be pleaded in Engliah. This was not, however, generally enforced, 
even in the time of Sir John Fortescue, a hundred years later. — 
Hallam, LU. Mid. Ages, vol. i. c. i. § 5i. 

-■J The Man of Lawe ia tinctured with the pedantry of his profession 
and thinks that no reason is good unless sanctioned by some authority 
from a law-book. 


That^ Chhoeer, thay he can bat le-wedlr 
On metres szmI on lymTxi^ criftel j, 
Hath seyd hem in such Enzli^h as he ran , 
Of ' ' as knoveth maiiT maiL 

Ai^ __ _ . re noo^t sard hem. leeve hroHi&T, 

In o bok, he hath seyd hem in inozhtT. 

Tot he ha*. - up and doun, 

3Ioo ih^^^. ' . mencioun' 

In his L ben so olde. 

What schuid I teilen hem. svn ther be tolde ? 

In: " .ade*of ' " '' 

Al^ he :^ -. - _ 

These noble wj-fes, and these lovers ee.:-, 
Who so "wole his largr kr. 

Cleped the seintes lei'-;.- ^-. . i . . : .r ;* 
Ther may he see the Large woi;. ..'- -^le 
Of LocresBe, and of Babilonn Ty=bee; 
The sorwe of I" ' :V " - \ -- 

The tree of Pi. i _^ ^ i^- 

The pleynt of Dyane* and of Eraaycai, 
Oi Adrian.* and of Ysyffhilee ; 
The barrevn Tie stondm? in the see : 
The dreynt Leandere for his layre Erro; 
The teeres of Elevn. and eek the woo 

aes'^nre. - A xnaspc^axm iat made atoKiom o*. 

^ Hait If mi wrvU poetry. Hater w » ammam ward ia Ute 
xaiddie mges ior a pace CK the lorezs here i mti t mi d «dj ser^BB are 
fowHi a the ffwfiUrt Le^ank ofCmfidt, oth^priae the l^^ea^ tf G«it 
Womok, ia vbicii ue tlM stories iif Hi miiin mil niiliiMi ■! .ir-iwiiic 
FWIofte, not wtHtinBfj d here. Th^ are aU tatea fioa Ovid's .Se- 

'* I: appeals that this vasoaeBaaeofthepoe^vfeiehis] 
hy tike title of the X^fjunide ^ Glodie IToaMx. TldsBaaesaa 
of tbe vaf m vhi^ Chaaeer euered iaso the s^mt d tihe hpaihwi 
i a real form of religiaa. He "^-i**« i Thr^ rm o n - Ttm 
1 ftr lore, to hare bees saiaxs aad Mailjih fsK Capid, jast a* 
Peter aad Paal awl Cjrpriaa w« amUis far CVifS. 

' Pq ajui a, pnaoaoMed dike ItaHaa) Dqnaira, aad a> -rrit-a- r« 

* Aiiadae. "Pit W^t ii l i i ir lBa r' irmV-rrai 


Of Bryxseyde, and of Ledomia 

The cruelte of tlae queen Medea, 

The litel childi-en hangyng by the hals, 

For thilke Jason, that was of love so fals. 

Ypermystre, Penollope, and Alceste, 
Youre wyfhood he comendeth with the bestft 
But certeynly no worde writeth he 

Of thilke wikked ensample of Canace, 
That loved hir owen brother synfully ; 
On whiche corsed stories I seye fy ; 
Or elles of Tyro Appoloneus,^ 
How that the cursed kyng Anteochus 
Byreft his doughter of hir maydenhede, 
That is so horrible a tale for to reede, 
Whan he hir threw upon the pament. 
And therfore he of ful avysement 
Wold never wryte in non of his sermouns 
Of such unkynde abhominaciouns ; 
Ne I wol non reherse, if that I may. 
But of my tale how schal I do this day? 
Me were loth to be lykned douteles 
To Muses, that men clepen Pyerides.* 
{j\fet]iaviorj)lioseos wot what 1 mene); 
But natheles I recche nat a bene, 
They I come after him with hawe-bake,* 

1 speke in prose, and let him rymes make.'* 

• Tlic romance of ApoUoniusoj Tyre existed in Latin before a.d. 900 
A Saxon translation (which has been edited by Thorpe) is preserved 
in the library of Corpus Christi, Cam. The story is found in the Gesta 
Romanorum, and in Gower's Confessio Amantis; was translated into 
barbarous Greek by the fugitives from Constantinople in the fifteenth 
century; was one of the earliest printed books; and forms the basis of the 
play of Pericles, Prince of Tyre, ascribed to Shakespeare. — Sue Warton. 

-' He rather means, I think, the daughters of Pierus, who contended 
with the Muses, and were changed into pies. Ovid., Met. v.— T. 

3 This word has puzzled Tyrwhitt and all the commentators. It 
appears to be a form of hark back,' a term in hunting, by which the 
hounds are called back. [The explanation hark back cannot stand ; the 
Mid. English for that would be herke bale, which cannot rhyme with mak-e.^ 
The expression in the text is correct, and merely means ' JKikid haws,' 
i.e. plain, homely fare. We have evidence that haws were eaten. 
— W. W. S.] 

« The lawyer says, 'I have no scruple iu borrowing one of Chaucer's 


Aud with that word, he with a sobre chcerc 
Bygan liia tale, a3 ye schal after beere. 


[]\rR. Wright supposes tliis tale to have been derived from a 
French romance, and traces its several incidents to various 
media;val stories, amongst which he enumerates the romances 
of Emare, in Ritson's collection ; that of the Chevalier au 
eigne, and the still older Saxon romance of King OJJfa, pre- 
served in a Latm form by Matthew Paris ; the Roman de la 
Violette; Le Bone Florence of Rome, also in Ritson; a 
c\\a\>iQV o{ Vincent of Beauvais ; and the Gesta Romanorum , 
that inexhaustible treasure-house of fiction. TjTwhitt says 
it is taken, with little variation, from Gower's Confessio 
Amantis, which was written, as its author states, in the six- 
teenth year of the reign of Richard II., 1392-3, and therefore 
before the probable date of The Canterbury Tales. Upon 
the lines in the prologue beginning, ' But certeynly no worde 
writeth he,' Tyrwhitt founded a conjecture that the friendship 
which had subsisted between the two poets was internipted in 
their old age, which ho thinks is confirmed by the fact that in 
the copies of the Confessio Amantis made subsequently to the 
accession of Henry IV., Gower omitted some verses in praise 
of Chaucer. Sir Harris Nicolas, to whom all admirers of the 
poet are deeply indebted for his complete demolition of the 
unfounded theories of his predecessors, states his opinion that 
Tyrwhitt's grounds for this supposition are 'very light;' and 
that 'he has answered his own suggestion; for he justly 
observes that Chaucer Could not have meant to show disrespect 
to Gower in a piece in which, like The Man of Lawcs Tale, 
almost every incident is borrowed from Gower ;' and that ' the 
omission of the lines alluded to in the late copy of the Con- 

tales entire, because my business, as a la\vyer. is to talk in prose ; hi^ 
ts a povt, to make rhyme*.' 


fessio Amantis, may be explained by Chaucer being then 
dead.' Now the grounds of Tja-whitt's hypothesis may be, 
and perhaps are, light; but certainly not for the reasons 
here mentioned. There is no necessity to suppose that Chaucer 
took his tale from Gower — on the contrary, it is much more 
likely, as Mr. Wright observes, that both poems might be 
traced to a common original in some popular romance ; and 
the fact of Chaucer's being dead, instead of furnishing an 
explanation of the omission of the complimentary lines, 
suggests a reason why Gower should be desirous of retaining 
them as a record of his attachment to his deceased friend. 
On the whole, it appears that Tyrwhitt's conjecture is founded 
upon no positive and indisputable evidence ; but neither has 
it yet been satisfactorily disproved. 

Of Chaucer's heroic and comic styles we have already had 
examples in the three first tales ; in this exquisitely touching 
picture of resignation, founded upon Christian faith and 
hope, he displays his powers of pathos. The pervading idea 
is that virtue is not to expect or seek its recompence in 
earthly happiness. Constance, that ' nobil creature,' is in 
fact too good to receive her reward in this world, which is 
therefore only the scene of her warfare and purification. The 
tone of mind produced by the perusal of the poem is one of 
awe and sober elevation, an effect lilie that of Longfellow's 
kindred story of lEvangeline, which is marred, however, by 
his unfortunate choice of the (so-called) hexameter verse. The 
metre selected by Chaucer is, on the contrary, well adapted to 
a pathetic subject. It was apparentlj^ first used by him in 
English poetry, and was taken, no doubt, from the Italian 
ottava rima, which it resembles in cadence, but from which 
it diflbrs in wanting the fifth line to rhyme with the fii'st and 

r\ HATEFUL harm, conclicioun of povert, 
^ With tlixirst, with cold, with liongcr so con- 
To asken help it schameth in thin hart, [foundyd, 
If thou non aske, with neede so art thou wuundyd, 
That verray neede unwrappetli al thy wouiide hyd; 


Maiigi'e tliyii hoed tlioii most fur iiuligcnce 
Or stele, or bcgge, or borwe thy disjx.'uce. 

Thow blamest Crist, and seyst lul bitterly, 
He mysdeparteth riches temporal ; 
And thyn neyhebour thou w^-tes syiifully; 
And seyst thou hast to litel, and he hath al. 
Pai-fay, seystow, som tyme he rekne schal, 
Whan that his tayl schal brcnneu in the gleede, 
For he nought helpeth the needful in his neede. 

Hei'kneth what is the sentens of the wyse, 
Bet is to dye than have indigence;* 
Thy selve neyghebour wol the despyse, 
If thou be pore, farwel thy reverence. 
Yet of the wyse man tak this sentence, 
Alle the dayes of pore men be Avikke ; 
Be war therfore or thou come to that prikke. 

If thou be pore, thy brother hateth the, 
And alle thy frendes lleeth fro the, alias ! 
O riche marchaundz, ful of wele be ye, 

noble pnident folk as in this cas, 

Youre bagges beth uat fuld with ambes aas.* 
But with sys synk, that renneth on your chaunce; 
At Crystemasse wel mery may ye daunce. 

Ye seeke laud and see for your wyimynges. 
As wyse folk as ye knowe alle tha.states 
Of regnes, ye be fadres of tyd\Tiges, 
Of tales, bothe of pees and of debates.* 

1 were right now of talcs dcsolat, 

Nere that a marchaunt, gon siththen many a yere, 
Me taught a tale, which ye schal after lieere. 

In Surrie* dwelled whilom a companye 
Of chapmen riche, and tlierto sad and ti'ewe, 

' Proverbs xiv. so. 

* Ambes aas means both ace or aos. You are the fortunate ones of 
the earth; tlie dice arc in your favour. 

* There is even still a inopriety in this description of mcrcliants. 
Rothschild ami Lafilte niiplit have been said to know and calculate upon 
ihe state of kinj^doins; and stockjobbers are still ihv Jathcrs of many 
tidings both of peace and war. 

* Syria, 
VOL. I. T 


That Vfyde vv-liere^ sent her spycerye, 
Clothes of gold, and satyn riche of hewe. 
Her chaffar was so thrifty and so newe, 
That every wight had deynte to chafFare 
With hem, and eek to selle hem of here ware. 

Now fel it, that the maystres of that sort 
Han schapen hem to Rome for to wende, 
Were it for chapmanhode or for dispoit, 
Non other message nolde they thider sende, 
But came hemself to Rome, this is the ende ; 
And in such place as thought hem avauntage 
For here entent, they tooke her herburgage. 

Sojourned have these marchauntz in the toun 
A certeyn tyme, as fel to here plesaunce. 
But so bifell, that thexcellent renoun 
Of themperoures doughter dame Custaunce 
Reported was, with every circumstaunce, 
Unto these Surrienz marchauntz, in such wj^se 
Fro day to day, as I schal you devyse. 

This was the comyn voys of every man : 
' Oure emperour of Rome, God him see ! 
A doughter hath, that, sith the world bygan. 
To rekne as wel hir goodnes as her bewte, 
Nas never such another as was sche. 
I prey to God hir save and susteene. 
And wolde sche were of al Europe the queene. 

* In hire is hye bewte, withoute piyde ; 
Yowthe, withoute gref hed or foyle ; 
To alle hire werkes vertu is hire gyde; 
Humblesse hath slayne in hir tyn-annye ; 
Sche is myrour of alle curtesye, 
Hir herte is verrey chambre of holynesse, 
Hir bond niynistre of fredom and almesse.' 

And al this voys is soth, as God is trewe. 
But now to purpos let us turne agein : [newe, 

These marchantz have don fraught here schippes 

' Widely, in every direction. 


And whan they have this blisful made seyn, 
Home to Surrey be they went agcin, 
And doon here needes, as they liave don yore, 
And lyven in wele, I can yoxi say no moi'c. 

Nowfel it, that these marchauntz stooden in grace 
Of him that was the sowdan of Surrye. 
For whan they come fro cny straunge j)lace. 
He wolde of liis benigne curtcsye 
Make hem good chere, and busiJy aspye 
Tydynges of sondry regnes, for to lore 
The wordes that they mighte seen and heere. 

Among other thiiigos specially 
These marchauutz him told of dame Constaunce 
So gret noblesse, in ernest so ryally, 
That this sowdan hath caught so gret plesaunce 
To havt'. hir figure in liis remembraunce. 
That al his lust, aud al his besy cure, 
Was for to love hir, whiles his lyf may dure. 

Paraventure in thilke large booke,^ 
Which that is cleped the heven, i-wi-ite was 
With sterres, whan that he his burthe took. 
That he for love schulde have his deth, alias ! 
For in the sterres, clerere than is glju;, 
Is wryten, Uod woot, who so cowtlie it rede, 
The deth of every man, withouten drede. 

In sterres many a wyntcr thcrbyfore. 
Was write the deth of Ector and Achilles, 
Of Pompe, Jidius, er they were i-bore; 
The stryf of Thebes, and of Erculcs, 
Of Sampson, Turnus, and of Soci-utes 
The deth ; but mennes wittes ben so dulle, 
That no wight can wel rede it at the fulle. 

This sowdan for his pryve counseil sent, 
And schortly of this mator for to pace, 
He hath to hem declared his entent, 

' Tyrwhitt quotes, as the originalofthe-<e two stanzas, a passage from 
the Maoacosmus of Demardus Sylvestris, given in the margin of the 
US. Cot. i. 

T 2 


And seyed hem certeyn, but lie might have grace 
To have Constance withinne a litel space, 
He nas bvit deed, and charged hem in hyghe 
To schapen for his lyf som remedye. 

Dyverse men divers thinges seyde/ 
The argumentes casten vip and down ; 
Many a subtyl resoun forth they leyden; 
They spekyn of magike, and of abusioun ; 
But finally, as in conclusioun. 
They can nought seen in that non avauntage, 
Ne in non other wey, save in mariage. 

Then sawgh they therein such difficulte 
By wey of resoun, to speke it al playn, 
Bycause that ther was such dyversite 
Bitwen here bothe lawes, as they sayn, 
They trowe that ' no cristen prince wold fayn 
Wedden his child under our lawe swete. 
That us was taught by Mahoun" cure prophete. 

And he answerde : ' Bather than I lese 
Constance, I wol be cristen doubteles; 
I moot be heres, I may non other cheese; 
I pray you haldeth your arguments in pees, 
Saveth my lyf, and beth nat recheles. 
Goth, geteth hire that hath my lyf in cure, 
For in this wo I may no lenger dure.' 

What needeth gretter dilatacioun 1 
I say, by tretys and ambassatrye, 
And by the popes mediacioun. 
And al the chirche, and al the chyvalrye, 
That in destruccioun of maAvmetrye, 
And in encresse of Cristes lawe deere, 
They ben acordid, as ye schal after heere, 

1 This is an example of the way in which the inflections of the verb 
were gradually disused. The »i is dropped in the word scijde, while it 
is retained in Itydeiu two lines lower down ; in speaking, hotli word* 
were pronounced alike, as appears by the fact that they are made to 
rhyme together. 

2 Mahomet, sometimes written Mahound. 


How that the soiulnn and liis baronage, 
And alle his lioi,ais schuKl i-crystned be, 
And he schal have Constance in manage, 
And certeyn guhl, I not what quantite, 
And therfore founden they swilisaiit seurte. 
This same acord was sworn on every syde ; 
Now, fair Constance, almighty God the guyde! 

Now wolde som men wayten, as I gesse. 
That I schulde telleu al the purvyaunce, 
Tliat themperour of liis grot noblesse 
Hath schapcn for his doughter dame Constaimce. 
"SVel may mcu knowe that so grct ordyuaunco 
May no man telle iu so litel a clause. 
As was arrayed for so high a cause. 

Bisschops' ben schapen with hir for to wende, 
Lordes, ladyes, and knightes of renoun, 
And other folk ynowe, this is the eude. 
And notefied is thui-ghout the toun, 
That every wight with gret devocioun 
Schulde preye Crist, that he this mariage 
Recej'A'e in gree, and spede this viage. 

The day is come of hire dopartyng, 
(I say the woful day that than is come) 
That ther may be no longer taiTyj'ug, 
But forthe-ward they dresse heni alle and some. 
Constance, that with sorwc is overcome, 
Ful pale arist, and dresseth hir to wende. 
For wel sche saugh ther nas iion other ende. 

Alias! what wonder is it though sche wepte, 
That schal be sent to straunge nacioun, 
Fro freendes, that so tenderly hir keptc. 
And to be bouude undur subjecciouu 
Of oou sche knew nat his coudicioun? 

' So when Ethelbcrt married Bertha, daughter of the Christian King 
Charibert.she broii>,'lit with licr, to the court of lier liusband.a Gallioan 
bisliop iiainod Lemlhard, wlio was i)Lrniittfd to celebrate mass iu the 
ancient British Cliurch of St. Martin, near Canterbury. 


Housbondes ben al goode, and han be yore;^ 
That knowen wyfes, I dar say no more. 

' Fader,' scbeseid, 'thy wrecched child Constaunce, 
Thy yonge doughter fostred np so softe, 
And ye, my mooder, my soverayn jilesaunce 
Over al thing, outaken Criste on lofte,^ 
Constaunce your child hir recomaundeth ofte 
Unto your grace ; for I schal into Surrye, 
Ne schal I never see you more with ye. 

' Alias ! unto the Barbre nacioun 
I most anoon, sethens it is your wille : 
But Crist, that starf for our redempcioun, 
So geve me grace his hestes to fidfille, 
I, wrecched womman, no fors they I spille !^ 
Wommen ben born to thraldam and penaunce, 
And to ben under mannes governaunce.' 

I trowe at Troye whan Pirrus brak the v/al, 
Or Yleon that brend, Thebes the citee,* 
Ne at Rome for the harme thurgh Hanibal, 
That Bomaynes have venquysshed tymes thre, 
Nas herd such tender wepyng for pite, 
As in the chambur was for hir partyng ; 
But forth sche moot, whether sche weep or syng. 

O firste mevyng cruel firmament. 
With thi diurnal swough that crowdest ay. 
And hurlest al fro est to Occident. 
That naturelly wold hold another way ; 
Thyn crowdyng sette the heven in such array 
At the bygynnyng of this fiers viage, 
That cruel Martz hath slayn this marriage. 

Infortunat ascendent tortuous. 
Of which the lordes helples falle, alias ! 
Out of his angle into the derkest hous. 

1 Ironical. 
2 Except Christ on high. ^ No matter though I perish. 

* Or at Ilion that burned (or was burnt), or at the city of ThebM. 
The line would be improved by reading — 

' Or Ileon brent, or Thebes the citee.' 


< ) Malic Attezere,' as ia tliis caas ; 
O feble luuoijo, unliappy been thi paas, 
Tliou knettest the tlier thou art nat recejrved, 
Ther thou were wel fro thonnes artow weyrecL 

Iinpriuleut cmjHjrour of Home, alias! 
Was ther no philosopher in al thy touni 
Is uo tyme bet than other in such ca&s? 
Of viage is ther noon elcccioun. 
Nanily to folk of heigh conclicioun, 
Nought whan a roote is of a birthe i-knowe ? 
Alias ! we ben to lowed, and eek to slowe. 

To schippe is brought this woful faire mayde 
Solemjjnely, with every circumstaunce. 
' Now Jhesa Crist so be with you,' sche sayde. 
Ther uys nomor, but ikrwel, fair Custaunce ; 
She peyneth hire to make good contienaunce. 
And forth I lete hire sayle in this manere, 
And tome I wol agein to my matiere. 

The moder of the sowdan, ful of vices, 
Aspyed hath hir sones playn entente, 
How he wol lete his olde sacrifices ; ' 
And right anoon sche for hir eounseil sent, 
And they ben come, to knowe what sche ment ; 
And whan assembled was this folk in fere, 
Sche sette hir doun, and sayd as ye schal heere. 

' Tymhitt, who reads' O Mars.O Atyznr," acknowledj^cs himself at a 
loss to choose betwwii the different readings of this passajie. [The ri;;ht 
reading Ls 'O JIars. U Atazir." O Alazir means oh I evil intluence! The 
word is Arahic, witli Si^iiiisli spelling; see atacir in Dozy, Glossaire de* 
Jlots i-'spagnoU dirrivts de l'Arabi>iue, p. 207. — W. VT. 8.] 

- In tlie margin of the I^insdowne and Cotton MSS. is tlic following 
quotation from the LibtT Ekctionum by Zael : — ' Umnes sunt concordati 
quod ek'Ctiones sint dobiles, nisi in divitibus,' &c. l"e\v would care to 
read the whole ; but the meaning seems to be that the fortunes of people 
of high condition only are discoverable by the stars. An analogy may 
be observed in the sujifrstiiion of the JUim)uc,i.\T shrieking woman, 
believed by tlie Celts of Scotland and Ireland to foretel the death of 
persons of noble bl jod. 

'■' The Maliomeilan religion does not admit of tlieidea of a .sacrifice or 
atonement ; but all false religious weru coufouudtd iu the popular 


* Lordes,' quod sclie, * ye knoweo everichon, 
How that my sone in poynt is for to lete 
The lioly lawes ot our Alkaroun/ 
Geven by Goddes messangere Makamete ; 
But oon avow to grete God I hete, 
The lyf schuld rather out of my body start, 
Or Makametes law go out of myn hert. 

' What schal us tyden of this newe lawe 
But thraldam to oure body and penaunce, 
And afterward in helle to be drawe, 
For we reneyed Mahound oure creaunce 1 
But, lordes, wol ye maken assuraunce, 
As I schal say, assentyng to my lore 1 
And I sclial make us sauf for evermore.' 

They sworen and assenten every man 
To lyf with hir and dye, and by hir stonde ; 
And everich in the beste wise he can 
To strengthen hir schal al his frendes fonde. 
And sche hath emperise take on lionde, 
Which ye schul lieere that I schal devyse, 
And to hem alle sche spak in this wise : 

' We schul firet feyne ous cristendom to take ;* 
Cold watir schal nat greve us but a lite ; 
And I schal such, a fest and revel make, 
That, as I trow, I schal the sowdan qiiyte. 
For though his ^v}^f be cristned never so white, 
Sche schal have neede to waissche away the rede, 
They sche a font of watir with hir lede.' 

O sowdones, root of iniquite 
Virago thou Semyram^ the secounde ; 
O serpent under feminite, 

1 The Koran was translated into Latfn in the twelfth century ; and 
to the intercourse which at this period was kept up between the people 
of Europe and the Arabs, Sir. Ilallam attributes the great, though 
secret, progress of scepticism, wliich may be traced in a continually 
increasingstreamthrougli the literature of the middle ages. — IIallam. 
Li toj the Mid. Ages, vol. i. c. ii. 64. 

- To receive baptism. 
3 Alluding to Senuramis murdering her King. 


Lyk tc the serpent deep in lu-lle i-boundo ; 
O fe\Tied womman, alle that may coiitimude 
Vertii and innocence, thnrgh thy malice. 
Is bred in the, as nest of every vice. 

O Satan, envyous syn thilke day 
That tliou were chased fro ourc heritage,' 
Wei knewest thou to wommen the olde way. 
Thou madest Eve to bryng us in servage, 
Thou wolt fordoon this cristen mai'iage. 
Thyn instrument so (weylaAvay the while !) 
!Makestow of wommen whan thou wolt bygyle. 

This sowdones, whom I thus blame and wary 
Let pryvely hir couuscil gon his way; 
What schuld I in this tale lenger tary ? 
Sche rideth to the sowdan on a day, 
And seyd him, that sche wold reney hir lay, 
And cristendam of prcstes handes fonge, 
Repentyng hir sche hethen was so longe ; 

Bysechyng him to doon hir that honour, 
That sche most have the cristen men to feste ; 
' To plesen hem I will do my laboiu'.' 
The sowdan seith, ' I wol do at your heste,' 
And knelyng, thanketh hir of that requeste ; 
So glad he was, he nyst nat what to seye. 
Sche kyst hir sune, and horn sche goth hir weye. 

AiTy\'ed' ben the cristen folke to londe 
In SuiTy, with a gret solempne route, 
And hastily this sowdan sent his sonde, 
Fii-st to his moder, and al the regne aV^oute, 
And seyd, his wyf was comen out of doutc. 
And preycth hir for to ride agein the queene,* 
The honour of his regne to susteene. 

Gret was the precs, and riche was tharray 
Of Surriens and Ilomayns mette in feere. 

' An allusion to Lnkc x. 18. 'I beheld Satan as liglitning fall from 
heaven.' Also, lU'V. xii., and other passages; tlie sources of the 
mediieval legend which served as the foundation of Parodist Lost. 
• To meet the Ciueen. 


The mooder of the sowdan riche and gay 
Receyved }iir with al so glad a cheere, 
As eny mooder might hir doughter deere ; 
And to the nexte citee ther bysyde 
A softe paas solempnely thay ryde. 

Nought trow I the triumphe of Julius, 
Of which that Lukan^ maketh moche bost, 
Was ryaller, ne more curious, 
Than was thassemble of this blisful oost. 
But this scorpioun, this wikked goost, 
The sowdones, for al hir flateiyng, 
Cast under this ful mortally to styng. 

The sowdan comth himself sone after this 
So really, that wonder is to telle ; 
And welcometh hir with al joy and blys. 
And thus with mirth and joy I let hem dwelle. 
The fruyt of this matier is that I telle. 
Whan tyme com, men thought it for the best 
That revel stynt, and men goon to her rest. 

The tyme com, the olde sowdonesse 
Ordeyned hath this fest of which I told ; 
And to the feste cristen folk hem di'esse 
In general, bothe yong and old. 
Ther men may fest and realte byholde, 
And deyntes mo than I can of devyse, 
But al to deere they bought it ar they ryse; 

"O sodeyn wo ! that ever art successour 
To worldly blis, spreynd is with bittemesse 
The ende of oure joye, of oure worldly labour , 
Wo occupieth the fyn of oure gladnesse. 
Herken this counseil for thyn sikernesse ; 
Upon thyn glade dayes have in thi mynde 
The unwar woo that cometli ay bihynde. 

For schortly for to tellen at o word, 
The sowdan and the cristen everichone 

 Lucan, author of tlie Pharsalia. 
- This stanza is taken from different paesagcs in Scripture I'rov. xiv. 
IB ; Eccles. xi. 8. 


Ben al to-lic\ve and stiked atto boi'd, 
But it \vc'ic daiiio Constauuce allone. 
This olde sowdones, this cursed crone, 
Hath witli liir frendes doou this cursed dede, 
For sche hirsclf wold al the centre lede. 

Ne ther was Surrien noon that was converted, 
That of the couuseil of the sowdou woot, 
That ho nas al to-hewe or he astcrted ; 
And Constaimce have they take anon foot-hoot,' 
And in a schippc, stereles, God it woot, 
They have hir sot, and had hir leme to sayle 
Out of Surry agein-ward to Ytaile. 

A certein tresour that sche thider ladde, 
And, soth to sayn, vitaile gret plente, 
Tliey have hir geven, and clothes eek sche hadde, 
And forth sche sayleth in the salte see. 
O my Constaunce, ful of benignite, 
O emperoures youge doughter deere, 
He that is Lord of fortun be thi steere ! 

Sche bl&sseth hir,^ and with ful pitous voys 
Unto the croys of Crist tlum seyde sche : 
' cler, O welful autcr, holy croys, 
Red of the lambes blood, ful of [lite, 
That wissh the world fro old iniquite, 
Me fro the focnd and fro his clowes keepe, 
That day that I schal drenchen in the dcepe. 

' With all expedition. Tyrwhitt says that hnnt-le-picd has the same 
meaning, and, therefore, supposed that foot-hot is quasi foot-ltaut. 
But from the suojoined note in the Lay qt the Last Minstrel, it would rather 
seem to be deriveil from following an animal of the chase so (luickly that 
the scent of its footsteps is hot upon the ground. ' The i>ursuit of border 
marauders was followed by the injured party and his friends witli 
blood-hounds and bugle-horn, and was called the hol-trotl.' The phrase 
hot-foot, signifying the following up any pursuit instantly or quickly, is 
common among the peasantry of Ireland. 

- To bless oneself is to make the sign of the cross on the forehead 
and breast, aa an act of faith in the atonement of Christ It is men- 
tioned by Tertulli;in,(/<' Ilt.-ntr. cnniii, by Cyprian, and ino^t of the early 
Christian writers, a« a usual custom in their time6 before tukiug any- 
thing in hand. 


' Victoi'ious tre, proteccioun of trewe, 
That oonly were worthy for to bere 
The Kyng of Heven, with his woundes newe, 
The white Lamb, that hurt was with a spere ; 
Flemer of feendes, out of him and here 
On which thy lymes feithfully extenden, 
Me kepe, and gif me might my lyf to menden.' 

Yeres and dayes flette this creature 
Thurghout the see of Grece, into the strayte 
Of Marrok/ as it was hir adventure. 
O many a sory mele may sche bayte, 
After hir deth ful ofte may sche wayte, 
Or that the wilde wawe wol hir dryve 
Unto the place ther as sche schal arryve. 

Men mighten aske, why sche was nought skynl 
Ek at the fest who might hir body save 1 
And I answer to that demaunde agayn, 
Who saved Daniel in thorrible cave, 
That every wight, sauf he, mayster or knave, 
Was with the lioun frete, or he asterte 1 
No wight but God, that he bar in his herte. 
God lust to schewe his wondurful miracle 
In hir, for we schuld seen his mighty werkes ; 
Crist, which that is to every harm triacle, 
By certeyn menes ofte, as knowen clerkes. 
Doth thing for certeyn ende, that ful derk is 
To maniies witt, that for our ignoraxmce 
Ne can nought knowe his prudent purvyaunoe. 

Now sith sche was nat at the fest i-slawe, 
Who kepte hir fro drenching in the see ? 
Who kepte Jonas in the fisches mawe, 
Til he was spouted vip at Ninive 1 ^ 
Wei may men knowe, it was no wight but He 
That kept the pepul Ebrayk fro her drenchyng, 
With drye feet thurghout the see passyng. 

1 Straits of Gibraltar. 


Who baddo foure spiritz of tempest, 
That power hau to uoyeu hiud autl see, 
Bothe north and south, and also west and est, 
Anoyou ne}'ther londe, see, ne tree f 
Sothly the comavmder ot tliat was He 
That fro the tempest ay this womman kepte, 
As wel when sche awok as wlien sche sle])te. 

Wher miifht this womman mete and drinke lia\e^ 
Thre yer and more, how lastetli hir vitaille 1 
Who fedde the Egipcien Mai'ie' in the cave, 
Or in desert? no wight but Crist saunz faile. 
Fyf thousand folk, it was a gret mervaile 
With loves fyf and fissches tuo to feede ; 
God sent his loysoun at her grete neede. 

Sche dryveth forth into oiu'e occean 
Thurghout oure wilde see, til atte last 
Under an holte, that nempnen I ne can, 
Fer in Northumberland, the wawe hir cast, 
And in the sand the schip styked so liist. 
That thennes wold it nought in al a tyde ; 
The wille of Crist was that sche schold abyde. 

The constabil of the castel doun is fare 
To se this wrak, and al the schip he sought. 
And fond this wery womman ful of care ; 
He fand also the tresour that sciie brought , 
In hir langago mercy sche bisought, 
The lif out of hir body for to t\vynne, 
Hir to delyver of woo that sche was inne. 

A maner Latyn conipt' was hir speche, 
But algates therl)y sche was understonde. 
The constabil, whan him lust no lenger seche, 

' The passages of Scripture here alluded to are Daniel vi., Jonah ii. 1 1, 
Exod. xiv., Kev. viii. i, 3, Matt. xiv. 

- St. Mary the Egyptian was a prostitute ; but, being converted, she 
fled to the desert, where she lived in folitude for forty-seven years, 
during which time she was miraculously sustained. — Lagenda Aurcn. 

2 So Boccaccio, in his letter to la t'iamrnetta, quoted by Tyrwhitt, in 


This Avoful womman brouglite lie to londe. 
Sche kneleth doun, and thanketh Goddes sonde 
Eut what sche was, sche wolde no man seye 
For foul ne faire, thoiigh sche scholde deye. 

Sche was, sche seyd, so mased in the see, 
That sche forgat hir mynde^ by hire trowthe. 
The constable had of hir so gret pitee, 
And eek his wyf, they wepeden for routhe ; 
Sche was so diligent withouten slouthe 
To serve and plese ever in that place, 
That alle hir loven that loken on hir face. 

The constable and dame Hermegyld' his wyf, 
To telle you playne, payenes bothe were f 
But Hermegyld loved Constance as hir lyf ; 
And Constance hath so long herberwed there 
In orisoun, with many a bitter teere, 
Til Jhesu hath converted thurgh his grace 
Dame Hermegyld, the constables^ of the place. 

In al the loud no cristen men durst route ; 
Al cristen men ben fled from that contre 
Thurgh payens, that conquered al aboute 
The places of the north by land and see. 
To AVales fled the cristianite 
Of olde Britouns, dwellyng in this yle ; 
Ther was hir refut for the mene while. 

But yit nere cristen Britouns so exiled, 
That ther nere some in here pryvite 
Honoured Christ, and hethen folk bygiled ;* 

his introduction, says that he had translated the story of the ThestiiM 
in Latino volgare, meaning Italian, which was the vernacular tongue of 

' ilr. Wright says that the Saxon is Eormem/ild, which was the name 
of one of the daughters of Earconbehrt, King of Kent. 

- Tyrwhitt gives (from other MSS.) instead of this line — 

' IVcrc payeiies, and that coiitree every wher.' 

The Harl. MS. has in peynes for payenes. — W. 

^ Constabless means the constable's wife, like the French chatelaine, 
the chdtelain's wife. 

•• This is corroborative of Mr. Ellis's opinion, expressed in the intro- 
duction to his Met. Romances, sec. ii — ' Upon the whole, though it in 


Aud neigh the castel such ther dwellid thre. 
That oon of hem w;us blynd, and might nat se, 
r>\it if it were with eyen of his mynde, 
With wliicli men seen after that they ben blynde. 

Bright \va.s the sonne, as in someres day, 
For which the constable and his wif also 
And Constaunce had take the righte way 
Toward the see, a forluug wey or two, 
To pleyeu, aud to romeu to aud fro ; 
And in that walk tliis blynde man they mette, 
Croked aud olde, with eyen fiist y-schette. 

' In name of Crist,' cryed this old Britoun, 
' Dame Hermegyld, gif me my sight ageyn !' ' 
This lady wax affrayed of the soun, 
Lest that hir housebaud, schortly to sayn, 
Wold hir for Jhesu Cristes love have slayn, 
Til Coustaunce made hir bold, and bad hir werche 
The wil of Crist, as doughter of holy chirche. 

The constable wax abaisshed of that sight, 
And sayde, ' What amounteth al this fare ?' 
Constaunce answered, ' Sir, it is Cristes might, 
That helpeth folk out of the feendes snare.' 
And so ferforth sche gan hir lay' declare, 

tcrtain tliat the leaders and princes of Britain defended their power 
with equal valour and obstinacy, it would be very rush to conclude 
that the whole body of their subjects prefirred exile or extermination 
to a timid and disloyal acquiescence in the government of a foreign in- 
vader; or that this invader disdained to derive from the labours of his 
new subjects either the necessaries of life or those luxuries and useful 
arts which they had learned from the Komans. In short, all analogy 
seems to concur with the best evidence, in leading us to believe that the 
Saxons and Uritons of the lowlands were gradually incorporated, like 
the Franks and Gauls, though, perhaps, in very different proportions, 
to as to form one people." 

' Why the blind man should infer that Dame Ilcrmcgyld had 
the power of working miracles, because she had been converted to 
Christianity, is not clear. Perhaps he is suiipoued to be seized with a 
supernatural impulse, sent expressly in order that the constable might 
be converted by the miracle. 

-' Her law, soil., the Gospel, called the new law, aa the Mosaic wa« 
calKd the old. 


That sche the constable, er that it was eve 
Converted, and on Crist made him bileve. 

This constable was not lord of the place 
Of Avhich T speke, ther he Constance lond, 
But kept it strongly many a wynter space 
Under Alla,^ kyng of Northumberlond, 
That was ful wys, and worthy of his hond, 
Agein the Scottes, as men may wel heere. 
But tourne agein I wil to my mateere. 

Satan, that ever us wayteth to begile, 
Sawe of Constaunce al hir perfeccioun, 
And cast anoon how he might qiiyt hir while ; 
And made a yong knight, that dwelt in the toun, 
Love hir so hoot of foul affeccioun, 
That verrayly him thought he schulde spille, 
But he of hii-e oones had his wille. 

He wowith hir, but it avayleth nought, 
Sche wolde do no synne by no weye ; 
And for despyt, he compassed in his thought 
To maken hir a schamful deth to deye. 
He wayteth whan the constable was aweye, 
And pryvyly upon a nyght he crepte 
In Hermyngyldes chambre whil sche slepte. 

Wery, for- waked in here orisoun, 
Slepeth Constaunce, and Hermyngyld also. 
This knight, thurgh Satanas temptacioun, 
Al softely is to the bed y-go, 
And kutte the throte of Hennegild a-two. 
And leyd the bloody knyf by dame Constaunce, 
And went his way, ther God geve him meschaunce. 

Sone after coruth this constable hom agayn, 
And eek Alia, that kyng was of that lond, 
And say his 'wyi' dispitously i-slayn, 

^ This is the king whose name gave occasion to one of Pope Gregory 
the Great's well-known string of puus. Wlien told that the name of tlip 
king who reigned in Northumberland was Ella or Alia, he said he 
trusted that not Alia, but Alleluia, would soon be sung in his do 


For which ful oft he wept and wrong his hond ; 
And in the bed the blody knyl" he loud 
By dame Custaunce: alhis! what miglit she say 1 
For ven-ay woo hir witt was al away. 

To king Alia was told al this meschaunce. 
And ook the tyme, and wher, and in what wyge 
That in a schip was founden this Constauuce, 
As here bifore ye have herd me devyse. 
The kinges hert of pite gan agrise, 
Whan he saugh so benigne a creature 
Falle in disese and in mysaventure. 

For as the iomb toward his deth is brought, 
So stant this inrocent bifore the kyng. 
This false knight, that hath this tresoun wrought, 
Bereth hir an hand that sche hath don this thing; 
But nevei-theles ther was gi-et murmuryng 
Among the people, and seyn they can not gesse 
That sche had doon so gret a Avikkednesse. 

For they han seyen hir so vertuous, 
And lo\yng Hermegyld right as liir lyf ; 
Of this bar witnesse everich in that hous, 
Save he that Hermegyld slowgh with his knyf. 
This geutil kyng hath caught a gret motyf ' 
Of his witnesse, and thought he wold enquere 
Depper in this cas, a trouthe to lere. 

Alias! Constaunce, thou ne has no champioun, 
Ne fighte canstow nat, so welaway ! 
But He that for oure rcdempcioun 
Bonde Sathan, that^ yit lith ther he lay, 
So be thy stronge champioun this day; 
For but Crist upon the mii-acle kythe, 
Withouten gilt thou schalt be slayn as swithe. 

Sche set hir doiin on knees, and than sche sayde 
' Immortal God, that savedest Susanne 
Fro false blame ; and thou mercyful mayde, 

And iu Ilarl. MS., apparentlr a clerical error. 

VOL. I. 


Mary I mene, dough ter of seint Anne, 
Bifore whos child aungeles syng Osanne j 
If I be gultles of this felonye, 
My socour be, for elles sc-hal I dye !' 

Have js not seye som tyme & pale fauo, 
Among a prees, of him that hath be lad 
Toward his deth, wher him geyneth no grace 
And such a colour in his face hath had, 
Men mighte knowe his face was so bystad, 
Among alle the faces in that route ; 
So stant Constance, and loketh hire about. 

O queenes lyvyng in prospei'ite, 
Duchesses, and ye ladies everychon, 
Haveth som reuthe on her adversite ; 
An emperoures doughter stond allon; 
Sche nath no wight to whom to make hir moon ; 
O blod ryal, that stondest in this drede, 
Ferre be thy frendes at thy grete neede ! 

This Alia kyng hath such compassioun, 
As gentil hert is fulfild of pite, 
That from his eyen ran the water dovm. 
' Now hastily do fech a book,' quod he; 
' And if this knight wil swere how that sche 
This womman slowgh, yet wol we xis avyse., 
Whom that we wille schal be oure justise.' 

A Britoun^ book, i-write with EvaungileSj 
Was fette, and on this book he swor anoou 
Sche gultif was ; and in the mene whiles 
An hond him smot upon the nekke boon. 
That doun he fel anon right as a stoon ; 
And bothe his yen brast out of his face 
In sight of every body in that place, 

A vols was herd, in general audience, 
And seid, ' Thou hast disclaundred gulteles 
The doughter of holy chirche in hire presence ; 

> See ant''., p. 236, note 4. 


Tlnishastow doon, and yit I liokle my pees" 
Ot'tliis mervnik' agast was al the ])rces, 
As uiascd I'dIIc thvy stooden evei*yclion 
For drede of Avreche, save Custaiince ullon. 

Gret was the drede and eek the repentaunce 
Of hem that haddt'n wrong siispeccioun 
Upon the sely innocent Custaunce ; 
And for this miracle, in conclusioun, 
And by Custannces mcdiacioun, 
The kyng, and many other in the place, 
Converted was, thanked be Cristes grace ! 

This false knight was slayn for his untrouthe 
By juggement of Alia hastyly ; 
And yit Custaunce hath of his deth gret routhe. 
And after this Jhesus of his mercy 
Made Alia wedde ful solempnely 
This holy raayde, that is bright and scliene. 
And thiis hath Crist i-maad Constance a queeae. 

But who was wuful, if I schal not lye, 
Of this weddyng but Domcgild and no mo, 
The kynges mooder, ful of tyrannye? 
Hir thought hir cursed herte bi-ast a-two ; 
Sche wohle nat hir sone had i-do so ; 
Ilir thought despyte, that he schulde take 
So straunge a creature unto his make. 

Me lust not of the caf ne of the stree 
-Make so long a tale, a,s of the corn. 
U hat schidd I telle of the realte 
Of this manage, or which cours goth bifora, 
Who bloweth in a tronipe or in an hornl 
The fruyt' of every tale is for to seye; 
'I'hey ete and drynk, and daunce and synge and pleye. 

They goii to bed, a« it was skile and right; 
For though that ^vyfes ben ful holy thinges, 
They moste take in pacience a-niglit 

> [The reading • hfJde my pees ' might have been expected, but tlie 5ISS. 
•J • not warrant it.— W. \V. S.] 
- It Ls the fruit or kernel of a tale that ought to bo told ; a rul» which 

u 2 


Such maner necessaries as ben plesynges 
To folk that han i-wedded liem with lynges, 
And halvendel her holynesse ley aside 
As for the tyme, it may non other betyde. 

On hire he gat a knave child anoon, 
And to a bisschope, and to his constable eeke, 
He took his wyf to kepe, whan he is goon 
To Scotlond-ward, his foomen for to seeke. 
Now faire Custaunce, that is so humble and meeke, 
So long is goon with childe til that stille 
Sche held hir chambre, abidyng Goddes wille. 

The tyme is come, a knave childe sche bere ; 
Mauricius atte funstone^ men him calle. 
This constabil doth come forth a messager, 
And wrot to his kyng that cleped was AUe, 
How that this blisful tydyng is bifalle, 
And other thinges spedful for to seye. 
He taketh the lettre, and forth he goth his weye. 

This messanger, to doon his avauntage, 
Unto the kynges moder he goth ful swithe, 
And salueth hire fair in his langage. 
' Madame,' quod he, ' ye may be glad and blithe, 
And thanke God an hundred thousand sithe; 
My lady queen hath child, withouten doute 
To joye and blis of al the reame aboutf). 

' Lo heer the lettres sealed of this thing, 
That I mot bere with al the hast 1 may ; 
If ye wole ought unto youre sone the kyng, 
I am youre servaunt bothe night and day.' 
Doungyld answerde, 'As now tiiis tyme, nay; 
But here al nyght I wol thou take thy rest, 
To morwen T wil say the what me lest.' 

Chaucer, unlike hia contemporaries, who are intolerably tedious, haa 
followed in T/ie Cantei-lmnj Tales, though not in all his works. 

' At the font-stone, at his baptism. The Harleian MS., by a mistake 
of the scribe, reads Maurim for Mauricius, 


This messangcr drank sadly ale and wyn, 
And stolen Avere Iuh letti'cs pryvely 
Out of his box, wliil he sleep as a swyn ; 
And countrefeet they were subtily ; 
Another sche him wroot ful synlully, 
Unto the kyng direct of this matiere 
Fro his constable, as ye schul after heere. 

The lettre spak, the queen delyvered was 
Of so orryble and feendly creature, 
That in the castel noon so hardy was 
That eny while dorste therin endure ; 
The mooder was an elf by aventure 
Bycorae by charmes or by sorcerie, 
And every man hatith hir companye. 

Wo was this kyng whan he this letter had sein, 
But to no wight he told his sorwes sore, 
But of his owen hand he wrot agayn : 
' Welcome the sond of Crist" for evereraore 
To me, that am now lerned in this lore; 
Lord, welcome be thy lust and thy pleasaunce! 
My lust I putte al in thjTi ordinaunce. 

' Kepeth this child, al be it foul or fair, 
And eek my wyf, unto myn hom comyng; 
Crist whan him lust may sende me an hair 
More agreable than this to my likyng.' 
This lettre he seleth, pryv-yly wepyng, 

' In the introduction to the ballad of TamUme, in the Border Min~ 
utreLey, is an interesting quotation from Einar Gudmund, a learned 
Icelander, very much to the present purpose : — ' I am lirmly of opinion," 
he says, ' that these beings (the elves) are creatures of God, consisting, 
like human beings, of a body and rational soul ; that they aro of dif- 
ferent sexc3, andcapablc of producing children, and subject to all human 
alTections.' . . . He proceeds to state that the females of this race 
are capable of procreating with mankind, and gives an account of one 
who bore a child to an inhabitant ot Iceland, for whom she claimed 
the privilege of baptism; depositing the infant for that purpose at tlie 
gate of the churchyard, together with a goblet of gold, as an oll'eriiig. 
-^Uislorla Hrolfi Krnl-a', n Toriiro. 

- ^Vclcolue wnat Cliriat aendg. 


Which to the messager he took ful sone, 
And forth he goth, ther nys no moi-e to done. 

O messager, fulfild of ch-onkenesse/ 
Strong is thy breth, thy lymes faltren ay, 
And thou bywreyest alle sykemesse; 
Thy mynde is lorn, thou janglest as a jay ; 
Thy face is torned al in a newe ai-ray ; 
Ther drunkenesse regneth in eny route, 
Ther is no counseil hid, withouten donte. 

O Domegykl, I have non Englisch digne 
Unto thy malice and thy tyrannye ; 
And therfor to the feend I the resigne, 
Let him endyten of thi treccherie. 
Fy, mannyssch, fy! — o nay, by Clod, I lye; 
Fy, feendly spirit, for I dar wel telle, 
Though thou here walke, thy spirit is in helle. 

This messanger comth fro the kyng agayn, 
And at the kinges modres court lie light, 
And sche was of this messenger ful fayn, 
And pleseth him in al that ever sche might. 
He drank, and wel his gurdel underpight; 
He slepeth, and he fareth in his gyse 
Al nyght, unto the sonne gan arise. 

Eft were his lettres stolen everichon. 
And countrefeted lettres in this wise : 
' The kyng comaundeth his constable anon. 
Up peyne of hangyng and of heigh justise, 
That he ne schulde suffre in no nianer -svyse 
Constaunce in his regne for to abyde 
Thre dayes, and a quarter of a tyde ; 

But in the same schip as he hir fond, 
Hire and hir yonge sone, and al hire gere. 

' Tyrwhitt gives in his notes from the margin of the MS. C. the fol- 
lowing, from whence this stanza is taken : — ' Quid turpius ebrioso, cui 
foetor in ore, tremor in corporc, qui promit stulta, prodit occulta; cui 
mens alienatur, facies trausformaUir 'i Nullum enim latet secreluni ubi 
regiiat ebrietas ' 


He schuldo putte, and crowde' fro the londe, 
Aud chiirgo liire that sche never eft come there.' 
O my Coustauuce, wel may thy goost have fere, 
And slepyng in thy drem ben in peniiunce, 
Whan Doniegjld ciust al this ordynaunce. 

This messangcr a-morwe, wlian lie awook. 
Unto the castel lieUl the nexte way; 
And ti> the constable he the lettro toO/.., 
And whan that he the pitous lettre say, 
Ful ofte he seyd alias and welaway ; 
' Lord Crist,' quod he, ' how may this world endure? 
80 ful of syune is many a creatui'e ! 

O mighty God, if that it be thy wille, 
Seth thou art rightful jngge, how may this be 
That thou wolt sutlre innoccntz to spiile. 
And wikked folk regiie in prospeiite? 
O good Constance, alias ! so wo is me, 
That I moot be thy torraentour, or deye 
On schamful deth, ther is non other weye.' 

Wepen bothe yong and olde in al that place, 
Whan that the kyng this coi-sed lettre sent; 
And Constance with a dodly pale face 
The fourthe' day toward hir schip sche went. 
But nevertheles sche taketh in good entent 
The wil of Christ, aud knelyng on the grounde 
Sche sayde, ' Lord, ay welcoiue be thy sonde ! 

He that me kepte fro the false blame, 
Whil I wos on the lond amonges you, 
He can me kepc from harm and eek fro schame 
In the salt see, although I se uat how ; 
As strong as ever he was, he is right now, 
In him trust I, aud in his mooder deere, 
That is to me my sayl and eek my stecre.' 

' To pusli. It is still asiial in Norfollc and Snflblk to speak of croicdinij 
a, whwl barrow. 

- Tlie Uarl. MS. reads Jaijrt. The reading iu tlie text is front 


Hir lite! child lay wepyng in hir arm, 
And knelyng pitously to Iiim sclie savde ; 
' Pees, litis sone, I wol do the noon narm.' 
With that hir kerchef of hir had sche brayde. 
And over his litel eyghen sche it layde, 
And in liir arm sche lullith it wel faste, 
And unto heven hir eyghen up sche caste. 

' Moder,' quod sche, ' and mayde bright, Marie, 
Soth is, that thurgh wommannes eggement 
Mankynde was lorn and dampned ay to dye, 
For which thy child was on a cros to-rent ; 
Thyn blisful eyghen sawh al this torment ;^ 
Then nys ther noon comi^arisoun bitwene 
Thy wo, and any woo may man sustene. 

' Thow saugh thy child i-slaw byfor thyn yen. 
And yit now lyveth my litel child, parfay ; 
Now, lady bright, to whom alle woful cryen, 
Thou glory of wommanhod, thou faire may, 
Thou heven of refute, brighte sterre of day, 
Rewe on my child, that of thyn gentilnesse 
Rewest on every synful in destresse. 

' litel child, alas ! what is thi gilt. 
That never wroughtest synne as yet, parde t 
Why wil thyn harde fader han the spilt ? 
O mercy, deere constable,' seyde sche, 
' And let my litel child here dwelle with the ; 
And if thou darst not saven him for blame/ 
So kys him oones in his fadres name.' 

' Tlio griefs of the blessed Virgin afforded to the poets of the early 
Church a favourite theme for appeals to the feelings, as in the well- 
known hymn {Svptem DolonimB. V. Maria), attributed to Innocent Til., 
which is not unlike the passage in the text : — 

' Pro peccatis suae gentis 
Vidit Jesum in tormentis, 
Et flagellis subditum. 
Vidit suum dulcem natiun 
Moricndo desolatum 
Dam emisit spiritum.' 

* For fear of blame. 


Therwith schc lokcth 1mk-w:ird to the loii;l, 
And seyile, ' Furwt-l, lioiisUoml rewtheles !' 
And up sche rist, and walketh doun the stronde 
Toward the schip, liir Ibhvoth :il the prees; 
And ever schc jn-eyeth hir child to hold his pees, 
And took hir leve, and with an holy entent 
ISche blesseth* hire, and to the schip sche went. 

Vytailled was the sehij), it is no drede, 
Abundaiintly for hire a ful longe space ; 
And other necessaries that schulde nede 
Sche had ynowgh, heryed be Cristez grace; 
For wyud and water almighty God purchace,* 
And biyng hir hom, I can no bettre say, 
But in the see sche dryveth forth hir way. 

Alia the kyng cometh hom soon after this 
Unto the castel, of the which I tolde. 
And asketh wher his wyf and his child ys. 
The constable gan aboute his herte colde, 
And playnly al the maner he him tolde 
As ye han herd, I can telle it no better, 
And schewed the kynges seal and his letter ; 

And seyde, • Lord, as ye comaunded me 
Up peyne of deth, so have I do certayn.' 
This messager tormented^ was, til he 
Moste biknowe and telle it plat and jila^Ti, 
Fro nyght to night in what place he had layn; 
And thus by witt and subtil enqueiyng 
Ymagincd was by wham this gan to spryiig. 

Tlie hand was knowen that the lettre wroot. 
And al the veiiyni of this cursed dede; 
But in what wyse, certeynly I uoot. 
Theffect is this, that Alia, out of di-ede,* 
His moder slough, as men may pleyuly reede, 

1 See ante. p. I8}, note 1. 

' This means, May Almifrhty God take the wind and water into hit 
especial [lossossion or (rovtrniince. 

^ KxaniinL(l by torture to nialie him discover his guilt. 

•• This is an idiomatic expression of usual occurrence. There is no 
fear but that Ella slew his mother, — i. e., you may be sure he did. 


For tliat sche traytour was to liir ligeaimce. 
Thus endeth olde Domegild with mescliaiance. 

The sorwe that this Alia night and day 
Maketh I'or his wyf and for his child also, 
Ther is no tonge that it telle may. 
But now I wol unto Custaunce go, 
That fleeteth in the see in peyne and wo 
ry\'e yeer and more, as liked Cristes sonde, 
Er that hir schip approched unto londe. 

Under an hethen castel atte last, 
Of which the name in my text nought I fynde, 
Constaunce and eek hir child the see upcast. 
Almighty God, that saveth al mankynde, 
Have on Constaunce and on hir child som mynde ! 
That fallen is in hethen hond eftsone. 
In poynt to spille, as I schal telle you soone. 

Doun fro the castel cometh many a wight, 
To gawren on this schip, and on Constaunce; 
But schortly fro the castel on a night. 
The lordes styward, God give him meschaunce ! 
A theef that had reneyed oure creaunce. 
Com into schip alone, and seyd he scholde 
Hir lemman be, whethir sche wold or nolde. 

Wo was this wrecched womman tlio higoon,^ 
Hire chi*lde crieth and sche pytously; 
But blisful Mary hilp hir right anoon, 
For with hir stroglyng" wel and mightily 
The theef fel over-boord al sodeinly, 
And in the see he drenched for vengeaunce, 
And thus hath Crist unwemmed kept Constaunce 

O foule luste, luxurie, lo thin ende ! ^ 
Nought oonly that thou feyutest mannes mynde. 
But verrayly thou wolt his body schende. 

1 This vsretclied woman was woe begone, far gone in woe. [ '\^i>e- 
begone' means •surrounded with woe.' A.-S. began 'to surround.'— 

2 Ilarl. MS. reads strcngthe. 

3 In the margin of the MS. C. i. is the foUowng:— 'O extrema 
libidinis turpitude, qu.x non sohipi mentem elTeminat, set ctiam cor- 
pus eutrvat: semprr secuntur dolor ct pcenitentia.' 


The emlu of thyn werk,or of thy lustes blynde, 
Is coiuph'yiiyng; how ruauy may meu fyndc, 
That nought for werk som tyme, but for theutent 
To doou this synne, bcu eythur shiya or scheut ! 

How may this weyke woinmau han the strengthe 
Hir to defende agein this renegat? 

Golias, utxniesurable of loiigthe, 
How inighte David luakL- tliu so mate ? 
So youg, aud of armiiru so desolate, 

How doi-st he loke upon thyn dredful face? 
Wei may men scyii, it nas but Goddes grace. 

Who gaf Judith corage or hardynesse 
To slen hiiii Olefernes in his tent, 
And to drlyvcren out of wrecchecbies 
The peple of God ? I siiy in this entent, 
That right as God spiiyte and vigor sent 
To hem, and saved hem out of meschaunce, 
So sent he might and vigor to Constaunce. 

Forth goth hir schip thurghout the narwe mouth 
Of Jubalter and Septe,* dryvyng alway, 
Som tyme west, and some tyme north and south, 
And som tyme est, ful many a wery day ; 
Til Cristes mooder, blessed be sche ay ! 
Hath schapen thurgh hir endeles goodnesse 
To make an ende of hir hevynesse. 

Now let us stynt of Constaunce but a thro we, 
And speke we of the Romayn emperour, 
Tliat out of Surrye hath by lettres knowe 
The slaughter of cristen folk, and deshonoui- 
Doon to his dough ter by a fals traytour, 

1 meue the cursed wikked sowdenesse, 

That at the fest leet slee bothe more and lesse. 

For which this emperour hath sent auoou 
His senatours, with real ordynaunce, 
And other lordes, God wot, r;."»^y oon, 

' Jubalter, of cuiir&e, means Gibraltar. Ceuta, on the opposite coast 
of Africa, was formerly called Svjita. 


On Surriens to take high vengecXiince. 
They brenne, sleen, and bringen hem to meschaunce 
Ful many a day ; but schortly this is thende, 
Horn-ward to Rome they schapen hem to wende. 

This senatour repayreth with victorie 
To Rome-wai'd, saylyng ful i-eally, 
And matte the schip dryvyng, as seth the story, 
In which Constance sitteth ful pitously. 
Nothing ne knew he what sche was ne why 
Sche was in such aray, sche nolde seye 
Of hire astaat, although sche scholde deye. 

He bryngeth hir to Rome, and to his wyf 
He gaf hir, and hir yonge sone also ; 
And with the senatour lad sche hir lyf. 
Thus can our lady bryngen out of woo 
Woful Constaunce and many another moo ; 
And longe tyme dwelled sche in that place, 
In holy werkes, as ever was hir grace. 

The senatoures wif hir aunte was, 
But for al that sche knew hir never more • 
I wol no lenger taryen in this cas, 
But to kyng Alia, which I spak of yore, 
That for his wyf wepeth and siketh sore, 
I wol retorne, and lete I wol Constaunce 
Under the senatoures governaunce. 

Kyng Alia, which that had his mooder slayn, 
Upon a day fel in such repentaunce, 
That, if I schortly telle schal and playn. 
To Rome^ he cometh to receyve his penaunce, 
And putte him in the popes ordynaunce 
In heigh and lowe, and Jhesu Crist bysought, 
Forgei his wikked werkes that he wrought, 

The fame anon thurgh Rome totm is born. 

' There are many examples of Saxon kings relinquishing their dig- 
nities, and retiring to Rome, or ending their days in monastic seclu- 
sion. Among otliers, Coclwulf, King of Korthuniherland, to whom 
Ikde dedicated liis history, abdicated the throne about the year 738, 
and retired to Holy Island, where he died. 


How Alia kyug schal come iu pilf^ymage, 
By hcrberjourz that wcntou him bitoni, 
For which the senatour, as was usage, 
Rood hiiii agX'in,' and many of his lynage. 
As wel to scheweu his magniticeuce, 
As to doon eny kyng a reverence. 

Gret chcere doth this nolile souatour 
To kyug Alia, aud ho to him also; 
Evcrich of hem doth oth^r gret honour, 
And so bikl, that iu a day or two 
This senatour is to kyng Alia go 
To fcst, aud schortly. if I schul not lye, 
Constances sone went in his companye. 

Som men wold seyn at request of Custaunoe 
This senatour hath lad this child to feste; 
I may not telle every ci'rcumstaunce, 
Be as be may, ther was he atte leste ; 
But soth it is, right at his modres hcste, 
Byfom hem alle, duryng the metes space, 
The chUd stood lokyng in the kynges face. 

This Alia kyng hath of this child gret wonder, 
And to the senatoiu" he seyd anoon, 
' Whos is that faire child that stondeth yonder?' 
* I not,' quod he, ' by God and by seynt Jon ! 
A moder he hath, but fader hath he non. 
That I of woot :' and schoi-tly in a stounde 
He told Alia how that this child was founde. 

' But God woot,' quod this senatour also, 
' So vertuous a lyvcr in my lyf 
l^e saugh I never, such as sche, nomo 
Of worldly womman, mayden, or of wyf ; 
T dar wel s;iy sche hadde lover a knyf 
Thurghout hir brest, than ben a womman wikke, 
Thor n no man can bryng hir to that prikke.''' 

I UckIc to meet Iiim. 
' To that point, t. e., cou LOaiue her in that respect. 


Now was this child as lik unto Custauuce 
As possible is a creature to be. 
This Alia hath the face in remembraunce 
Of dame Custaunce, and thereon m\ised he, 
If that the childes mooder were ought^ sche 
That is his wyf ; and pryvely he hight, 
And sped him fro the table that he might. 

' Parfay !' thought he, 'fantom is in myn heed ; 
I ought to deme, of rightful juggement, 
That in the salte see my wyf is deed.' 
And alter- ward he made this argument : 
* What woot I, wher Crist hath hider sent 
My wyf by see, as wel as he hir sent 
To my contre, fro thennes that sche went V 

And after noon home with the senatour 
Goth Alia, for to see this wonder chaunce. 
This senatour doth Alia gret honour, 
And hastely he sent after Custaunce. 
But trusteth wel, hir luste nat to daunce, 
Whan that sche wiste wherfor Avas that sonde, 
Unnethes on hir feet sche mighte stonde. 

Whan Alia saugh his wyf, fayre he hir grettc. 
And wepte, that it was rewthe to se ; 
For at the firste look he on hir sette 
He knew wel verrely that it was sche. 
And for sorwe, as domb sche stant as tre ; 
So was hire herte schett" in hir distresse. 
Whan sche remembred his unkyndenesse. 

Twies sche swowned in his owen sight ; 
He wept and him excuseth pitously; 
' Now God,' quod he, ' and alle his halwes bright 
So wisly on my soule have mercy, 
That of youre harm as gulteles am I 
As is Maurice my sone, so lyk youre face, 
Elles the feend me feoche out of this place." 

1 If the child's mother were by on;/ chmice she, &c. 
- A beautiful phrase, expressive of the i)ainful inability to speak o» 
weep in violent grief, particularly if caused by unkindness. 


Long was the sobbyng and the bitter pejruo, 
Or tliat here woful lierte mighto ; 
(irot was the j)ite for to here hem i)leyne, 
Tluirgh whiche playutz gau liere wo eucresee. 
I pray yovi alle my hibour to relesse, 
I may not telle al here woo unto morwe, 
I am so wery for to speke of the sorwe. 

But fynally, whan that the soth is wist, 
That Alia giltolos was of hir woo, 
I trowe an hundred tymes they ben kist, 
And such a blys is ther bitwix hem tuu, 
That, save the joye that lasteth everemo, 
Ther is noon lyk, that eny creature 
Hath seyn or sclial, whil that the world may dnre. 

Tho prayde sche hir housbond meekely 
In the relees of hir pytous pyne, 
That he wold preye hir fader specially, 
That of his majeste he wold enclyne 
To vouchesauf som tyme with him to dyne. 
Sche preyeth him eek, he schulde by no weye 
Unto hir fader no word of hir seye. 

Som men wold seye,^ that hir child Maurice 
Doth his message unto the emperour ; 
But, as I gesse. Alia was nat so nyce,' 
To him that is so soverayn of honour, 
As he that is of Cristes iblk the flour, 
Sent eny child ; but it is best to deeme 
He went himsilf, and so it may wel seme. 

This emperour hath graunted gentilly 
To come to dyner, as he him bysought ; 
And wel rede I, he loked besily 
Upon the child, and on his doughter thought. 
Alia goth to his in, and as him ought 
Arrayed for this fcst in every wyse, 
As ferforth as his coiinyiig may suffise. 

' Tyrwhitt supposes that this rtfers to Gower's version of the storv ; 
bm it alludes, more probably, to some romance which wae the common 
orif;in;il of both. 

- Syce is here used in the sense of ntaw, foolish. 


The morwe cam, and Alia gan him drosse, 
And eek his wyf' the emperour for to meete ; 
And forth Lhey ryde in joye and in gladuesse, 
And whan sche saugh hir fader in the streete, 
Sche light adoun and filleth him to feete. 
' Fader,' quod sche, ' your yonge child Constance 
Is now ful clene out of your remembraunce. 

' I am your doughter Custaunce,' quod sche, 
* That whilom ye have sent unto Surrye ; 
It am I, fader, that in the salte see 
Was put alloon, and dampned for to dye. 
Now, goode fader, mercy I you crye, 
Send me no more unto noon hethenesse, 
But thanke my lord her of his kyndenesse.' 

Who can the pytous joye telle al 
Bitwix hem thre, sith they be thus i-mette ? 
But of my tale make an ende I schal ; 
The day goth fast. I wol no lenger lette. 
This glade folk to dyner they ben sette ; 
In joye and blys at mete I let hem dwelle, 
A thousand fold wel more than I can telle. 

This child Maurice was siththen emperour 
I-maad by the pope, and lyved cristenly, 
To Cristes chirche dede he gret honour. 
But I let al his story passen by, 
Of Custaunce is my tale specially; 
In olde Romayn gestes men may fynd 
Maurices lyf, I here it nought in mynde. 

This kyng Alia whan he his tyme say. 
With his Constaunce, his holy wyf so swete. 
To Engelond they com the righte way. 
Wher as they lyve in joye and in quyete. 
But litel whil it last, I you biheete, 
Joy of this world for tyme wol nob abyde, 
Fro day to night it chaungeth as the tyde.* 

' In margin of MS. C. i., ' A mane usque ad vesperam mutftbitur 
tempus; tenent tympanum et gaudent ad sonum orgaui,' &c. 


Who lyvcd ever in sucli delyt a <l:iy,' 
That him no inevod eytlier liis cou.sfience, 
Or ire, or taleut, or som inauer aftniy, 
Knvy, or pride, or passioun, or oflciice? 
I lie say but fur this endo this sentence. 
That litel whil in joye or in plesaunce 
Lasteth tlic blis of AUa witli Custaunce. 

For deth, that takth of heigh and low his rent, 
Whan passed was a yeere, as I gesse, 
Out of this worlde kyng AUa he hent. 
For whom Custauns liath ful gret lievynesse. 
Now let us pray that Ciod his soule blesse! 
And dame Custaunce, fynally to say, 
Toward the toun of Rome goth hir way. 

To Rome is come this nobil creature. 
And fyut hir freeudes ther bothe hool and sound; 
Now is sche skaped al hir aventure. 
And whanne sche her fader had i-founde, 
Doun on hir knees falleth sche to grounde, 
Wepyng for tendirnes in herte blithe 
Sche heried God an hundred thousand sithe. 

In vertu and in holy almes-dede 
They lyven alio, and never asondre wende; 
Til deth departe liem, this lyf they lede. 
And far now wel, my tale is at an ende. 
Now Jhesu Crist, that of his might may sende 
Joy after wo, governe us in liis gi-ace. 
And keep ons alle that ben in this place.* 

' III margin of MS. C.i., ' QiiLs unquain uuuni iliem totam in sua 
dilectione (lu.xit jocundam? (jium in aliqua. jiarte iliui reatus con- 
acientia;, vd iinpctu.s ir.x', vel motus concupiscentia; non turbavit," &c. 

- In some of the MS.S. The Afcircltautules I'cUe follows that ofThe Man 
of Latce. The Ilarl. SI.S. erroneously places the J'rologe to the Shi/> 
man's Tale before 7Tie Wyt qt Bathes ProlcKje; to which latter there 
are the following four introductory lines in the Lansd. MS.; — 
' Than sihortly nnscwarde the wife of Bathe, 
And swore a w onder grete hathe. 
'Be Goddcs bones, I will tel next, 
I will not glo.^e, but sayc the text. 
Experiment, though none anctorite," &c. 

FOL. I. _ 



T^ XPERIENS, though noon auctorite 

-Li Were in this world, it were ynough for me 

To speke of wo that is in mariage ; 

For, lordyngs, syns I twelf yer was of age, 

^' I thank it God that is eterne on lyve, 

Housbondes atte chirch dore I have had fyve,* 
For I so ofte might have weddid be, 
And alle were worthy men in here degre. 
But me was taught, nought longe tyme goon is, 

/^ That synnes Crist went never but onys 
To weddyng, in the Cane of Galile, 
That by the same ensampul taught he me 
That I ne weddid schulde be but ones. 
Lo, herken such a scharp word for the nones ! 

/i' Biside a welle Jhesus, God and man, 
Spak in reproof of the Samaritan : 
' Thou hast y-had fyve housbondes,' quod he ; 
' And that ilk-man, which that now hath the, 
Is nought thin housbond ;' thus he sayd certayn ; 

i,0 What that he ment therby, I can not sayn. 
But that I axe, why the fyfte man 
Was nought housbond to the Samaritan? 
How many might sche have in mariage 1 
Yit herd I never tellen in myn age 

' It appears that the JVi/f of BatJie's Prologe wa3 a kind of compo- 
sition often recited by the minstrels or contours. Erasmus, in his 
Ecclesiastcs, speaking of sucli preachers as imitated the tone of beggars 
or mountebanks, aayi, ' Apud Anglos,' &c. ' Among the English is a 
kind of men like those called in Italy circulatores, wlio intrude them- 
selves into the feasts of persons of rank, or into wine-shops, and re- 
cite some discourse which they have learned by heart, such as that 
death is supreme over all, or upraise of matrimony.' But though Chaucer 
has adopted a subject and mode of composition which were probably 
already popular, his treatment of it, for wit and humour, ease and 
knowledge of human nature, is to be equalled only by the delineationn 
oi Shakespeare. 

8 See ante, p. q^, note I. 

15' r: 


XJ)" Uppon this noumbre difBnicioun. 

Men luiiy divine and glosen up and doiiii ; 

But wol I wot, withouten eny lye, 

(Jod bad us for to wax and multiplie; 

That geutil tixt can I wel undei-stonde. 
^ Kk wol r wot. he s;iyd, niyn house])onde 

Sehuld lete failer and nioder, and folwe me; 

But of no nouraber mencioun made he, 

Of bygamye or of octogamye;' 

Why sohuld uteu speken of that vilonye? 
i iT Lo hier the wise kyng daun Salomon, 

I trow he hadde wifes mo than oon. 

As wold God it were leful unto me 

To be refreisshed half so oft as he ! 

Which gift of God had he for alle liis wyvys! 
UP No man hatli such, that in the worhl on lyve is. 

God wot, this uobil king, as to my wit, 

The firste night had many a niery fit 

With ech of hem, so wel was him on lyve. 

I-blessid be God that I have weddid fyve !* 
i^y Welcome the sixte whan that ever he schal! 

For sothe I nyl not kepe me chast in al ; 

Whan myn housbond is fro the world i-gon, 

Som cristne man schal wedde me anoon, 

For than thapostiP saith tliat I am fre 
yi? T<^ wedde, a^goddis haf, wher so it be. 

He saith, that to be weddid is no synne; 

Bet is to be weddid than to brynne.* 

' Bigamy, accordinf; to the canonists, consisted (not only in mar- 
rying two wives at a time, but) in marrying two spinsters successively. 
or a widow at all, ami \\ as supposed to argue passions so unrestrained 
a3 to incapacitate the bigamist for ever from reciiviiig holy orders, in 
accordance with i Tim. iii. z, as they understood it. 

-' The second Candi. MS. collated by Ulr. Wriglit, several MS.S. 
quoted by I'yrwhitt, and the printed editions, after this verse, read: — 

' Of whiche I have pyked out the beste, 
Bothe of here nether purs and of here che«te.' 

* Eom. vii. 3- ■• > Cor. vii. 9- 

X 2 


What recchith me what folk sayn viloyne 
^ Of schrewith Lameth, and of his bigamye?* 
S^ I wot wel Abram was an holy man, 

And Jacob eek, as ferforth as I can, 

And ech of hem had wyves mo than tuo, 

And many another holy man also. 

Whan sawe ye in e iy maner age 
U^ That highe God defendid" mariage 

By expres word? I pray you tellith me; 

Or wher commaunded he virsrinite % 

I wot as wel as ye, it is no drede, 
^ Thapostil, whan he spekth of maydenhede, 
bh" He sayd, that precept therof had he noon ;' 

Men may counseil a womman to be oon, 

But counselyng nys no comaundement ; 

He put it in our owne juggement. 

For hadde God comaundid maydenhede, 
*J0 Than had he dampnyd weddyng with the dede; 

And certes, if ther were no seed i-sowe, 

Virginite whereon schuld it groAve? 

Poul ne dorst not comaunde atte lest 

A thing, of which his maister gaf non hest. 
75" The dart* is set upon virginite, 

Cach who so may, who rennith best let se. 

But this word is not taken of every wight, 

But ther as God list give it of his might. 

I wot wel that thapostil was a mayde, 
5"P But natheles, though that he wrot or sayde, 

' Gen. iv. There runs through the whole of this doctrine about 
bigamy a confusion between marrying twice and having two wives at 
once. All that is said in Scripture about bigamy in the latter sense, is 
applied to it in the former. 
- Like the French dejendre, to forbid. 
3 1 Cor. vii. 6. 
A dart or spear was a usual prize for running, as in Lydgate — 
' And oft it liappeneth he that best ron 
Doth not the spere like his desert possede.' 
The meaning of the te.xt is: — A great reward is indeed promised to vir- 
ginity ; it is one of the counsels of perfection; but it is not commanded, 
all have not a vocation for it. The allusion is to Matt, xix., and 
1 Cor. vii. 



He wolde that every wiglit were such as lie, 
Al nys but counseil unto virginite. 
And for to ben a wj'f he gaf nae leve, 
Of indulgence, so nys it to rejn-eve 
^^ To wed(le nie, if tliat my make deye, 
Withoute excepcioun of bigamye ; 
Al were it good no wommau for to tonche, 
(He mcnte in his bed or in his couche) 
For peril is bothe fuyr and tow to assemble ; 
C^O Ye knowe what this ensample wold resemble. 
This is al and som, he holdith virginite 
More pariit than wed<lying in frelte ; 
(Frelte clepe I, but if that he and sche 
Wold leden al ther lif in chastite). 
(llj I grauut it wel, I have noon envye, 

ThoTigh maidenhede preferre' bygamye; 
It liketh hem to be clene in body and gost ; 
Of myn estate I nyl make no bost. 
For wel ye wot, a lord in his household 

10^ He nath not every vessel ful of gold f 
Som ben of tre, and don her lord servise 
God depth folk to him in sondry wise, 
And every hath of God a propre gifte, 
Som this, som that, as him likith to schifte. 

lOS Virginite is gi'et perfeccioun,^ 

And continens eek with gret devocioun ; 
But Christ, that of perfeccioun is welle, 
Bad nought every wight schuld go and selle 
Al that he had, and give it to the pore, 

//^ And in such wise folwe him and his lore.* 
He spak to hem that wolde lyve parfN^tly, 
And, lordyngs, by your leve, that am not I ; 
I wol bystowe the flour of myn age 
In the actes and in the fruytes of mariage. 

//^ Tel me abo, to what conclusioun 

' Prefer seems to be a neuter verb, signifying he hettT than. 
 i Tim ii. so. ^ Matt. xix. »i. 

' Harl. MS. reads fore, which is probably a mere clerical error. Tht 
reading in the text is from Tyrwhitt. 



^'ere mombres maad of generacioun, 

And of so parfit wise^ a wight y- wrought? 

Ti-ustith right wel, thay were nought maad for nouglit 

(ilose who so wol, and saye bothe up and doiin, 
lUO That they were made for purgacioun, 

Oure bothe uryn, and thinges smale, 

Were eek to knowe a femel fi'o a male; 

And for non other cause : — say ye no 1 

Thexperiens wot wel it is not so. 
/l^y Ho that these clei'kes ben not with me wrothe, 

I say tliis, that thay makid ben for bothe, 

This is to say, for office and for ease 

Of engendrure, ther we God nought displease. 

Why schuld men elles in her bokes sette, 
/^O That man schal yelde to his wif his dette ; 

Now wherwith schuld he make his payement. 

If he ne used his sely instrument 1 

Than wei-e thay maad vipon a creature 

To purge uryn, and eek for engendrure. 
1^' But I say not that every wight is holde, 

That hath such barneys as I to you tolde. 

To gon and usen hem in engendrure ; 

Than schuld men take of chastite no cure. 

Crist was a mayde, and schapen as a man, 
it^O And many a seynt, sin that the world bygan. 

Yet lyved thay ever in parfyt chastite. 

I nyl envye no vii-ginite. 

Let hem be bred of pured whete seed, 

And let us wyves eten barly breed. 
[l^if And yet with barly bred, men telle can, 

Oure Lord Jhesu refreisschid many a man. 

In such astaat as God hath cieped ous 

I wil persever, I am not precious ; 

In wyfhode I wil use myn instrument . 
/5b Als frely as my maker hath me it sent. 

If I be daungerous, God give me sorwe, 

Myn housbond schal han it at eve and morwe. 

' The Ilarl. MS. reads, And iu wliai wise. Some M88. reaa and wfig. 
instead of a wight. — W. 

/yj- /Sv, 


Whan that him list com forth and pay his dette. 

An iiousKouti wol I liave, I wol nut lotte, 
/S'^ Wliich schal be bothe my dettour and my thral, 

And liave his tribuhicioun witlial 

Upon his fleissch, whil tliat I am his wyf. 

I have tlie power duryng al my lif 

Upon his propre body, and not he; 
/^ff Right thus thaj)ostil' tokl it unto me. 

And bad oure housboudes tbi" to love us wel; 

Al this sentence me likith every del.' 
Up stai't the pardoner, and that anoon ; 

* Now, dame,' quod he, ' by God and by seint Jon, 
/^y Ye ben a noble prechoiir in this caa.s. 

I was aboute to wedde a wif, allaasl 

What? schal I buy it on my tleisch so deere? 

Yit had I lever wedde no wyf to yere !' 

' Abyd,' quod sehe, ' my tale is not bygonne. 
/7<j Nay, thou schalt drinke of another toune 

Er that I go, schal savere woi-s than ale. 

And whan that I have told the forth my tale 

Of tribulacioun in mariage, 

Of which I am expert in al myu age, 
/y^'This is to say, myself hath ben the whippe, 

Than might thou chese whethir thou wilt sippe 

Of thilke tonne, that I schal abroche. 

Be war of it. er thou to neigli approche. 

For I schal telle ensamples mo than tea: 
/S^ Who so that nyl be war by other meu 

By him schal other men connected be. 

The same wordes writes Ptholome,' 

• Ephes. V. j5. It is dillicult ton-cotuiletlie account wliich our his- 
torians pive of the ipnorance of Scripturo jjrovaillng in tlie iniilille 
agns, with tlie fact tliat nlniost atl th; writiiifjs of tliose times which 
liave come down to us are filled with allusions to the sacred writing?. 
upon the Hebraisms of which, indeed, their barbarous Latin is founded, 
just a.s the peculiar phraseology of the I'uritans is derived from the 
English translation of the Bible. 

- In the margin of ."MS . c. i., is the following quotation : — ' Qui per 
Alios non corrigitur, alii per ipsum corrigeutur." But 1 cannot tiiiU 
any such passage in the AlmagesU. — T. 




Rede in his Almagest, and tak it there.' 
' Dame, I wold pray you, if that youre wille were, 
/^ Sayde this pardoner, ' as ye bigan, 

Tel forth youre tale, and sparith for no man, 
Teche us yonge men of your practike.' 
' Gladly,' quod sche, ' syns it may yow like. 
But that I pray to al this companye, 

/fC If that I speke after my fantasie, 

As taketh nought agreef of that I say, 
For myn entente is nought but to play. 

' Now, sires, now wol I telle forth my tale. 
As ever mote I drinke wyn or ale, 

/..^y I schal say soth of housbondes that I hadde, 

As thre of hem were goode, and tuo were badde. 
Tuo of hem were goode, riche, and olde ; 
Unnethes mighte thay the statute holde, 
In which that thay wei'e bounden unto me; 

Ji^ Ye wot wel what I mene of this parde ! 

As help me God, I laugh whan that I think^ 
How pitously on night I made hem swynke, 

. But, by my fay ! I tol^ of it no stoor ; 

Thay had me give her lond and her tresor, 

X'OyM.e nedith not no lenger doon diligence 
To Wynne her love or doon hem reverence. 
Thay loved me so wel, by God above ! 
That I tolde no deynte of her love. 
A wys womman wol by si hir ever in oon 

5^^ To gete hir love, there sche hath noon. 

But synnes I had hem holly in myn bond, 
And synnes thay had me geven al her lond, 
What schuld I take keep hem for to please, 
But it were for my profyt, or myn ease? 

XlS I sette hem so on werke, by my fay ! 

That many a night thay songen weylaway. 
The bacoun was nought fet for hem, I trowe, 
That som men fecche in Essex at Donmowe.* 

• Lord Fitzwalter, in the reign of Uenry III., ordered that what- 
ever married couple did not quarrel or repent of their marriage wittiiB 

^/^- z^^ 


I governed hem so wel after my lawe, 
Xifi That ecli ot hem fill blisful wa.s and fawe 

To brini^o jue gaye thinges fro the faire. 

Thay were ful ghul wlian I spak to hem faire ; 

For, God it woot. I chidde liem sjiitously. 

Now herkeneth how I bar me ju'oprely. 
i 2y Ye wise wyves, that can understonde, 

Thus scholde ye speke, and here hem wrong ou 

For half so boldely can tlier no man [honde; 

►Swere and lye as a womman can.' 

(I say not by wyves that ben wise, 
i J«? But if it be whan thay ben mysaviee.) 

I wis a wif, if that sciie can hir good, 

Schal beren him ou houd the cow is wood,' 

And take witnes ou hir oughue mayde 

Of hire assent; but lierkenith how I sayde. 
f 3^' See, olde caynard, is this thin array V 

Why is my neghebores wif so gay? 

a year and a day, should go to his priory of Dunmow, in Essex, anj 
roceive a flitch of bacon, ou swearing to tlie truth, kneehng on two 
stones in the cliurcliyard. 'l'l?e flitch lias accordingly been claimed from 
time to time, the la,-.t occasion being at u meeting of the JJunmow Agri- 
cultural Society in January, iSj'i, :'S recorded in the C/itlmybrd Cliro- 
«/c/f of that date. See also Hi,oUNT'S.yot-i/'rtr 'A*Hwre-'.edit. 1784, p. 296. X 
siniilarcustom prevaiiod at Wliiclienover. — I'l.oTr's /Juit. o/Strifordshire. 
'iyrwhitt says it also existed in Uretagiie, and quotes the following : — 
' A I'abliaie Sainct Melaiuc, pn-s Heniies, y a plus de six cens ans sent, 
un coste de lard encore tout frais et iion corrompu. et neantnioins voue 
et ordonne aux premiers qui par an et jour ensemble niariez ont vescu 
sans debat, prondemeui, et saii< s'en npentir.' — ConUad'Eutrap, torn. ii. 
J). 161. [It h;is been claimed more recently, in 1851, 185;, and iZ-b. — 
\V. \V.S.] 
' This is taken from the Rotnan de la Rote ; — 

' Car plus hardini-'nt quo iiiilz homnie, 
CxTtainement jurent et inentcnt.' 

2 Shall make the 11 believe falsely that the cow is wood, which may 
signify either tliat the cow is nuid nr mndf 0/ loond; which of the two in 
the preferable interpretation it will U; sjiftMt not t<j determine till we 
can di<c<jver tlie nld st<>ry to which this i)hra«c seems to be a jiroverbial 
alhi-ion. — T. [ tlVioti is ' mad ;' else we >hoiild have wooden. — W. W. S.J 

3 Tyrwhitt s.iys 'In the following specc'i. it woidd Ije endlevs to 
\Mint out all (.'haun-rs Imitation'^. The beginning is from thr frag- 
ment of Thpoplirasiu-. quot«l by St. .lerome c. Jnv,i)., and by Jubn ot 
Salisbury, f'.ljCiat., lib. viii. c. xi.— See also Uonuxn lit la huit. 

137- i<^ 


Sche is honoured over al ther sche goth ; 
I sitte at horn, I have no thrifty cloth. 
What dostow at my neighebores hous? 

Jt^^ Is sche so fair? what, artow amorous? 

What roiine ye with hir maydenes? benedicite, 
Sir olde lecchour, let thi japes be. 
And if I have a gossib, or a frend 
Withouten gilt, thou chidest as a fend, 

tMb' If that I walk or play unto his hous. 

Thou comest hom as dronken as a mous.' 
And prechist on thy bench, with evel preef, 
Thou saist to me, it is a gret meschief 
To wedde a pover womman, for costage ; 
tffC And if that sche be riche and of parage, 
Thanne saist thou, that it is a tormentrie 
To suffre hir pride and hir malencolie. 
And if that sche be fair, thou verray knave, 
Thou saist that every holour wol hir have ; 
^^A' Sche may no while in chastite abyde, 
That is assayled thus on eche syde. 
Thou saist that som folk desire us for riches, 
Som for our schap, and som for our faii-nes, 
And some, for that sche can synge and daunce, 
i,(fO And some for gentilesse or daliaunce, 

Som for hir handes and hir armes smale : 
Thus goth al to the devel by thi tale. 
Thou saist, men may nought kepe a castel wal, 
It may so be biseged over al. 
X,^' And if sche be foul, thanne thou saist, that sche 
Coveitith every man that sche may se; 
For, as a spaynel, sche wol on him lepe, 
Til that sche fynde som man hire to chepe. 

' In a note on this expression, Mr. Wright qiiotes a letter from a 
monk of Preston, in which the writer says that liis brother monks of 
that lioiibe ' drynk an bowll after collacyon tell ten or xii, of the 
clock, and come to mattcns as dronck as mi/s.' — ' Letters relating lo the 
Buppression of tlie monasteries ;' Camd. Society's publications. 



Nr noon so j:jvay a ^oos gotli in the lake, 
X7^ -'^'^ sayest tliuti, wol be witliouton make.' 
And saist, it is an hard tiling tor to wolde 
Thing, that no man wol, his willes, holdc." 
Thus seistow, lorel, whan thou gost to hcdde, 
And that no wys man ncdith tor to wedde, 

iZ-^Ne no man that entendith unto hevene. 

With wilde thunder dynt and fuyry levene 
Mote thi wicked necke be to-broke! 
Thou saist, that droppyng hous, and eek smoke, 
And chydyng wyves maken men to fle 

%,i0 Out of here oughne hous ; a, henedlcite, 

What eylith such an old man for to chyde? 
Thou seist, we wyves woln oure vices hide, 
Til we ben weddid, and than we wil hem schewe. 
Wei may that be a proverbe of a schrewe. 

%, »(5 Thou saist, that assen, oxen, and houndes, 
Thay ben assayed at divers stoundes, 
Basyns, lavours eek, er men hem bye, 
Spones, stooles, and al such housbondrie, 
Also pottes, clothes, and array; 

i,^0 But folk of wyves maken non assay, 

Til thay ben weddid, olde dotard schrewe ! 
And thanne, saistow, we woln oure vices schewe. 
Thou saist also, that it displesith me 
But if that thou wilt praysen my beaute, 

i ^S And but thou pore alway in my face, 

And clepe me faire dame in every place; 
And but thou make a fest on thilke day 
That 1 was born, and make me freisch and gay; 

' There is a common proverb in French of tlie same import : — ' Chaque 
pot a son couvercle.' 

- Tyrwhitt reads — 

* And sayst it is an hard thing to vvelde 
A thing tliat no man will, his thankes, helde.' 
In the glossary he intiT])rets «-('Wf,5wer;i. The meaning, not at first 
obvious, is. It is hard tobe obli^'ed to wield.orgovt'rii, a tliing(mpaning 
bis wife) which no one would willinjjly continue to hold or possess. The 
expression, his thanks, like his wiUes, has been already exi)lained, 
ante, p. 1^0, note I. 

!<)<?- 437- 


And but thou do my norice honoure, 
t^ OiJ And to my chamberer withinne my boure, 

And to my fadres folk, and myn allies: 

Thus saistow, olde barel ful of lies! 

And yit of oure apprentys Jankyn, 

For his crisp her, schynyng as gold so fyn, 
4 dy And for he squiereth me up and doun, 

Yet hastow caught a fals suspeccioun ; 

I nyl him nought, though thou were deed to morwe. 

But tel me wherfor hydestow with sorwe 

The keyes of thy chist away fro me? 
$ (0 It is my good as wel as thin, parde.^ [dame 1 

' What ! wenest thou make an ydiot of oui-e 

Now by that lord that cleped is seint Jame, 

Thow schalt not bothe, though thou were wood, 

Be maister of my body and of my good ; 
3 /y That oon thou schalt forgo mavigre thin yen! 

What helpeth it on me tenqueren or espien 1 

I trowe thou woldest lokke me in thy chest. 

Thou scholdist say, ' wif, go wher the lest ; 

Take you re disport ; I nyl lieve no talis ; 
J JO I know yow for a trewe wif, dame Alis.' 

We loveth no man, that takith keep or charge 

Wher that we goon ; we love to be at large. 
' Of alle men i-blessed most he be 

The wise astrologe daun Ptholome,^ 
l^'Uy That saith this proverbe in his Almagest: 

Of alle men his wisedom is highest. 

That rekkith not who hath the world in honde. 

By this proverbe thou schalt understonde, 

Have thou ynough, what thar the recch or care 
J ia How merily that other folkes fare? 

For certes, olde dotard, with your leve. 

Ye schul have queynte right ynough at eve. 

' Scil. o'' me. So Numb. xvi. 14, Korah and Dathan exclaim 
'■Will thou put out the eyes of these men ?' 
* The MeyaAij Ivvra^n of Ptolemy, called by the Arabs AhiiegUthi. 



He is to gret a nygard that wol werne 
A man to light a caudel at liis lanterne; 
i ^y He sclial liave never the hisse light, ])arde. 
Have thou ynough, tue thar not i)leyne the 
' Thou saist also, that if we make us gay 
With clothing and with precious array, 
That it is peril of our chastite. 
h kP And yit, with sorwe, thou most enforce the, 
And say these wordes in thapostles name :' 
In abyt maad with chastite and schame 
Ye wommen schuld apparayl yow, quod he, 
^ And nought with tressed her, and gay perr6. 
bi^b As perles, ne with golden clothis riche. 
After thy text, ne after thin nibriche, 
I wol nought wirche as moche as a gnat. 
Thow saist thus that I was lik a cat ; 
For who so wolde senge the cattes skyn, 
liTo Than wold the catte duellen in his in; 
And if the cattes skyn be slyk and gay, 
Sche wol not duelle in house half a day. 
But forth sche wil, er eny day be dawet, 
^ ^ To schewe hir skyn, and goon a caterwrawet. 
^^6' This is to say, if I be gay, sir schrewe, 

I wol renne aboute, my borel for to schewe. 
Sir olde fool, what helpith the to aspien ? 
Though thou praydest Argus with his hundrid yen* 
To be my wardecorps, as he can best, 
J^ In faith he schuld not kepe me but if me' lest ; 

Yit couthe I make his herd, though queynte he be. 
Thou saydest eek, that ther ben thinges thre, 
The whiche thinges troublen al this erthe, 
And that no wight may endure the ferthe. 
5^/0 leve sire schrewe, Jhesu schorte thy lif! 
Yit prechestow, and saist, an hateful wif 
I-rekened is for oon of these meschaunces. 
Ben ther noon other of thy resembiaunces 

' I Tim. ij. 9. = Ovid's Metamorph. 

The narl. JIS., followed by Mr. Wright, reads he, which makes aa 
tense. Me. is from Tjrwhitt. 



That ye may liken youre parables unto, 
blO But if a cely wyf be oon of tho? 

Thow likenest wommaunes love to helle, 

To bareyn loud, ther water may not duelle. 

Thou likenest it also to wilde fuyr ; 

The more it brenneth, the more it hath desir 
ifTiT To consume every thing, that brent wol be. 

Thou saist, right as wormes schenden a tre, 

Right so a wif schendith hir housebonde ; 

This knowen tho that ben to wyves bonde. 
Lordyuges, right thus, as ye ban understonde, 
^ f Bar 1 styf myn housebondes on honde. 

That thus thay sayde in her dronkenesse ; 

And al was fals, but that I took witnesse 

On Jaukyn, and upon my nece also. 

liord, the peyne I dede hem, and the wo, 
3^6" Ful gulteles, by Goddes swete pyne; 

For as an hors, I couthe bothe bite and whyne ; 

1 couthe pleyne, and yet I was in the gilt, 
Or elles I hadde often tyme be spilt. 

Who so first Cometh to the mylle, first grynt -^ 
i^d I pleyned first, so was oure werre stynt. 

Thay were ful glad to excuse hem ful blyve 
Of thing, that thay never agilt in her lyve. 
And wenches wold I beren hem on honde, 
Whan that for seek thay might uunethes stonde, 
$^(f Yit tykeled I his hei-te for that he 
Wende I had of him so gret chierete. 
I swor that al my walkyng out a nyght 
Was for to aspic wenches that he dight. 
Under that colour had I many a mirthe. 
i/^ For al such witte is geven us of birthe ; 
Deceipt wepyng, spynnyng, God hath give 
To wymmen kyndely^ whil thay may lyve.* 

' This proverb is found also in French, in the fifteenth century . — 
' Qui premier vicnt au nioulin premier doit mouldre.' — AV. 

' Tiii« appears to have been a popular saying. In the margin of the 
Lausdowne MS it is given in a Latin leonine, thus: — 

' Faller,!, flere, nere, dedit Ueus iu muliere.' — W. 

4^^ J - hi < 


And thus of o thing I avaunte me, 
At thende I had the hot in ech degr^, 
C{Oi) By sloiglit or fors, or of som nianer thing, 
As by continuel murmur or chidyug/ 
Naraly on bedde, liadden thay meschaunce, 
Ther wokl I chide, and do hem no plesaunce ; 
I wold no lenger in the bod abyde, 

ti Ifi If that I fult his arm over my syde, 

Til he had maad his raunsoun unto me. 
Than wold I suflTre him doon his nycete. 
And therfor every man this tale telle, 
Wjnme who so may, for al is for to selle ; 

iili With empty hond men may noon haukes lure, 
For wynnyng wold I al his lust endure. 
And make mc a feyned appetyt. 
And yit in bacoun^ had I never delyt ; 
That made me that ever I wold hem chyde. 

UVO For though the pope had seten hem bisyde, 
I nold not spare hem at her oughne bord, 
For, by my trouthe, I quyt hem word for word. 
Als help me verray God omnipotent. 
Though I right now schuld make my testament, 

I4IS \ owe hem nought a word, that it nys quitte, 
T brought it so aboute by my witte. 
That they most geve it up, as for the best, 
Or ellis had we never ben in rest. 
For though he loked as a grym lyoun, 

L(hO Yit schuld he fayle of his conclusioun. 

Than wold I say, ' now, goode leef, tak keep. 
How mekly lokith Wilkyn our scheep ! 
Com ner, my spouse, let me ba thy cheke. 
Ye schulde be al pacient and meke, 

t/J^'And have a swete spiced consciens,* 
Siththen ye preche so of Jobes paciens. 

' Most of the MSS. have, mth Tyrwhitt. jrrucc^n*?. — W. 
- Bacon is smoke-dried for keeping : the allusiiou would seem to be, 
therefore, to her husbands old age. 
• ijee antt, p. 99, note 2. It here .ippeire to mean -scrupuloas. 



Suffreth alway, syns ye so wel can preche, 
And but ye do, certeyn we schul yow teche 
That it is fair to have a wyf in pees. 

l^^C On of us tuo mot bowe douteles ; 

And, siththen man is more resonable, 

Than womman is, ye moste be suffrable. 

What aylith yow thus for to grucche and 

grone ? 
Is it for ye wold have my queynt allone 1 

l^luJi Why, tak it al; lo, have it every del. 

Peter !^ I schrewe yow but ye love it wel. 
For if I wolde selle my hele diose, 
I couthe walk as freisch as eny rose, 
But I wol kepe it for youre owne toth. 

l^ ifO Ye ben to blame, by God, I say yow soth !' 
Such maner wordes hadde we on honde. 

Now wol I speke of my fourth housbonde. 
My fourthe housbond was a revelour. 
This is to say, he had a paramour, 
^^if And I was yong, and ful of ragerie, 
Stiborn and strong, and joly as a pye. 
How couthe I daimce to an harpe smale, 
And synge I wys as eny nightyngale. 
Whan I had dronke a draught of swete wyn. 
HifO Metillius,^ the foule cherl, the swyn. 

That with a staf by raft his wyf hir lyf 

For sche drank wyn, though I had ben his wif, 

Ne schuld he* nought have daunted me fro 

drink ; 
And after wyn on Venus most I think. 
Ciifia For al so siker as cold engendrith hayl, 

A likorous mouth most have a lioorous tail. 

- By St. Peter ! a common oath, like ' Marry !' for St. Mary. 

' The story is told by Pliny, Nat. Hist., lib. xiv. c. 1 3, of one Mecenius ; 
but Chaucer probably quoted from Valerius Maximum, lib. vi. 3. 

3 He, which is necessary both for the sense and metre, being omitted 
In the Harl. MS., is supplied from Tyrwhitt. 



In wymraen viuoleut is no defens,' 

This kiiDwon lecchoui's by experieiiH. 

But, lord Crist, whan that it remeuibrith me 
i^TO Upon my youthe, and on my jolite, 

It tikelith me aboute myn herte-roote! 

Unto this day it dotli myn lierte boote, 

That I have had my world as in my tyme. 

But age, alias ! that al wol enveuyme, 
U( 7i*Hath me bireft my beaute and my i)ith ; 

Let go, farwel, the devyl go therwith. 

The flour is goon, ther uis no more to telle, 

The bran, as I best can, now mot I selle. 

But yit to be meiy wol I fonde. 
uTo Now wol I telle of my fourt housboude. 

I say, I had in lierte gret despyt, 

That he of eny other had delit ; 

But he was quit, by Grod, and by seint Joce ;' 

I made him of the same woode a croce,* 
/i^/y Nought of my body in no foul manere, 

But ccrteynly I made folk such chere, 
( That in his owne grees I made him frie 

For angei', and for verray jalousie. 

By God, in erthe I was his purgatory, 
^^^ For which I hope his soule be in gloiy. 

For, God it wot, he sat ful stille and song, 

Whan tliat his scho ful bitterly liim wrong/ 

Ther wiis no wight, sauf God and he, that wist 

In many wyse how sore I him twist. 
^f^'He dyed whan I cam fro Jenisalem, 

And lith i-gi-ave under the roode-bem ;' 

' From the livman de la Rose.— 

■Car puisqiic femme est enyvrte. 
El u'a point en soy de defense.' 

- Saint .ludocus, or Joce, was a saint of Ponthieu.— TocoA. HaguA, 
prefixed to Menage, Etym. Fruuc. — T. 

' I made liiin a cross, an instrument of torture, out of the same 
material that he torturtd nie witli, sot/., jealousy. 

* An allusion to tin- story of the Roman sage, who, wlieti hlamed for 
divorcinK his wife, said that a shoe miglit api>ear outwardly to lit well, 
but no one but the wearer knew where it pinched. — \V. 

* .Vcross the arch which usually diviUci the chancel from ihi; ni»4 
Vol., I. X 



Al is his tombe nought so curious 
As was the sepulcre of him Darius, 
Which that Appellus wrought so subtily. 

^'lyC It nys but wast to burie him preciously. 
Let him farwel, God give his soule rest, 
He is now in his grave and in his chest. 

' Now of my lifte housbond wol I telle j 
God let his soule never come in helle ! 

6*^6' And yet was he to me the moste schrewe, 
That fele I on my ribbes alle on re we. 
And ever schal, unto myn endyng day. 
But in oure bed he was so freisch and gay, 
And therewithal so wel he couthe me glose, 

S'iO Whan that he wold have my hele chose, 

That, though he had me bete on every boon. 
He couthe wynne my love right anoon. 
I trowe, I loved him beste, for that he 
Was of his love daungerous to me. 

^IS' We wymmen han, if that I schal nought lye, 
In this matier a queynte fantasie. 
Wayte,* what thyng we may not lightly have, 
Therafter wol we sonnest crie and crave. 
Porbeed us thing, and that desire we : 
*fl^ Pres on us fast, and thanne wol we fie. 
With daunger outen alle we oure ware ;* 
Greet pres at market makith deer chafFare, 
And to greet chep is holden at litel pris ; 
This knowith every womman that is wys. 
^i^'My fyfth housbond, God his soule blesse. 

Which that I took for love and no richesse, 

He som tyme was a clerk of Oxenford, 

And had left scole, and went at hoom to borde 

in English churches was stretched a beam, on which was placed a rood, 
that is, a iigiiie of our Lord on the Cross, with the blessed Virgin and 
St. .John standing on each side, as described in the Gospel of St. John. 
Under tliis her liusbanr' was buried. 

' H'ayte has here the force of the French Tenes.' Hold ! look ye ! 

2 Dilhculty in making our bargain makes us bring out all our war* 
for sale. For oiitcn Tyrwhitt reads uttren; both mean the same. 



Witli my gossib, duellynpf iu our toua : 
^'i O God liuvo hir soule, liir iiiiinc %va.s Alisoun. 

►Solie kuew myii herte and luy juivite 

Eet than oure parisch prest, so mot I the. 

To hir bywreyod I my couuseil al ; 

For had iimi Iioxisbond pissed on a wal, 
^'^^'Or dou a thing tliat schuld have cost his lif, 

To hir, and to another woi'tliy wyi", 

And to my neece, whicli I loved wel, 

I wold have told his counseil every del. 

And so I did ful ofte, God is woot, 
6k^ That made his face ofte reed and hoot 

For verry schame, and blamyd himself, that he 

Had told to me so gret a privete. 

And so byfel that oones in a Lent, 

(So ofte tyine to my gossib I went, 
b''kS For ever yit I loved to be gay, 

And for to walk in March, Averil, and May* 

From hous to hous, to here sondry talis) 

That Jaukyn clerk, and my gossib dame Alls, 

And I myself, into the feldes went. 
S'S'O Myn housbond was at Londone al that Lent ; 

I had the bettir leysir for to pleye, 

And for to see, and etik for to be seye 

Of lusty folk ; what wist I wher my grace 

Was schapen for to be, or in what place V' 
^'^i'Therfore I made my vLsitaciouns' 

To vigiles, and to processiouns, 

To prechings eek, and to this pilgrimages,* 

To pleyes of miracles, and mariages, 

' The Sprinp months, which wore the season of the great festivals of 
Easter ami \\ liitsiintiiie, invited to wulk iibroinl. 

'^ How (lid I know where it was destined that my favour was to be 
bestowed ? 

* From the licmnn df ta Hate: — 

' Souvent voise a la mere eglisf' (the catliedral), 
Et face visitations 
Aux nopces, aiix i)rores8ions, 
Aiix jeiix. aux fetes, aiix ciiroles.' 

* Pilgrimages were ol'ten, as I'ercy well ulMtsrves, made the pretexu 

Y 2 



And wered upon my gay scarlet gytes. 
S(tC These wormes, these moughtes, ne these mytes 
Upon my perel ft-etith hem never a deel, 
And wostow why % for thay were used wel. 
Now wol I telle forth what happid me : — 
I say, that in the feldes walkid we, 

^*j^' Til trewely we had such daliaunce 

This clerk and I, that of my purvyaunce 
T spak to him, and sayde how that he, 
If I were wydow, schulde wedde me. 
For certeynly, I say for no bobaunce, 

SIO Yit was I never withouten purveyaunce 
Of mai'iage, ne of no thinges eeke ; 
I hold a mouses hert not worth a leek. 
That hath but oon hole to sterte to, 
And if that faile, than is al i-do. 

^S ^I hare him on hond he had enchanted* me ; 
(My dame taughte me that subtUtee) 

for assignations. Thus, in Pepys' Collection, \oL i.,p. Zi6, is a kind of 
Interlude, beginning : — 

' As I went to Walsingham, 
To tlie shrine witli speede. 
Met I with a jolly palmer. 
In a pilgrimes weede. 
' Now God you save, you jolly palmer!' 
' Welcome lady gay, 
Oft have I sued to thee for love,* 
' Oft have I said you nay.' ' 

In the Vision of Pierce Plowman also : — 

' Hermets on an heape. 
With hoked staves, 
Wenteu to Walsingham, 
WUh Iter wenches after.' 
' This and the nine following lines are omitted in the Ilarl. MS. and 
others. The second Cambridge MS has them. They are here printed 
from Tyrwhitt.— W. 

- The practice of endeavouring to obtain a reciprocation of love by 
means of philters and charms was common in tlie middle ages. It 
was derived from the classics (see Tlieocritu.s, <l>apfiaKe>;Tpiai), and 
was a part of that lingering belief in the heathen mythology, as a 
system of daemonology aud witchcraft, which, though professing to ac 

^yf - ^ qif 


And eke I sayd, T met of him all night, 
He wold han slain me, as I lay upright. 
And all my h«l was ful of vcray blood; 

tf\0 But yet I hope that ye sliulu do me good ; 

For blood betokenetli gold, as me was taught ; 
And al was false, I dremed of him right naught, 
But as I folwe<l ay my dames lore, 
As wel of that as of otlier thinges more. 

{f>>%(i' But now, sir, let me se, what 1 schal sayn ; 
A ha! by God, I have my tale agayn.' 

' Whan that my fourthe liousbond was on bere, 
I wept algate and made a sory cheere, 
As wyves mooten, for it is usage ; 

i'^^ And with my kerchief covered my visage ; 
But, for that I was j)urveyed of a make, 
I wept but smal, and that I undertake. 
To chirche was mvn housbond brou2:ht on morwe 
With neighebors that for him made sorwe, 


knowledge the true God, sought to ohtain benefits from the assistance 
of the Devil, and which is the key, not only to many superstitions of 
Hie time, but even to the (otherwise unaccountable) proneness of the 
.)ewieb people to fall into idolatry. Froissart relates, that Gaston de 
Koix, son of the celebrated Gaston, received a bag of powder from his 
uncle, Charles the Had, with directions to sprinkle a small quantity 
over anything his father eat, the elTect of which would be to restore his 
father's affection for Gaston's mother, who was at that time separated 
from her husband, and resident at Charles the Bad's Court. There \t 
also an example in Othello, Act i. sc. a : — 

' Thou hast practised on her with foul charms. 

Abused her delicate youth with drugs or minerals 

That waken motion.' 

Newton, in a txK)k intended to assist in self-examination, called, 
TYyaU of a Afcui's otcne self, (i6oi, p. i i(S,) directs the penitent to 
inquire of his conscience under breaches of the seventh commandment, 
' Whether by any secret sleight or cunning, as drinkcs, druggef, 
medicines, charmed potiow, aniattm(nu<i philters, fijiires, characters, or 
any such like paltering instruments, devices, or practices, thou liast 
gone about to procure others to doate for love oftltee.' 

' This way of taking up the thread of the story is very dramatic and 
spirited, as well as characteristic of the Wyf of Batbej) coolness and 

»-S6^- hl^ 



S'^y And Jankyn ovu'e clerk was oon of tho. 

As help me God, wlian tliat I saugh him go 

After the beere, me thought he had a paire 

Of legges and of feet so clene* and faire, 

That al myn hert I gaf vmto his hold. 
^fiff He was, I trowe, twenty wynter old, 

And I was fourty, if I schal say the sothe, 

But yit I had alway a coltis to the. 

Gattothid" I was, and that by com me wel, 

I had the prynte of seynt Venus sel. 
^^^' As helpe me God, I was a lusty oon. 

And faire, and riche, and yonge, and wel bcgon ;^ 

And trewely, as myn housbonds tolde me, 

I had the best queynt that might be. 

For certes I am all venerian 
^< In felyng, and my herte is marcian : 

Venus me gave my lust and likerousnesse. 

And Mars gave me my sturdy hardinesse. 

Myn ascent was Taiu*, and Mars therinne ; 

Alias, alas, that ever love was synne ! 
^/if I folwed ay myn inclinacioun : 

By vertu of my constillacionn : 

That made me that I couthe nought withdrawe 

My chambre of Venus from a good felawe. 

Yet have I Martes marke uppon my face, 
^UC And also in another prive place. 

For God so wisly be mv salvacioun, 

I loved never by no discretioun. 

But ever folwed myn owne appetit, 

All were he shorte, longe, blake, or whit ; 
if%fl toke no kepe, so that he liked me. 

How povre he was, ne eek of what degre. 

' Clene means, of course, cleanly mmle : witliout clmn'^incgs or 
Buperfluous flesh. 2 See antr, p 07, note J. 

3 The Harl. SIS. omits this and the seven foUowinj; lines ; also the 
eight lines beginning 'Yet have I,' &c. The second Cambridge MS. is 
the only one I have collated which contains them all. The Lansd. and 
first Cambridge MSS. omit the last eiglit. I have taken them from 
Tyrwhitt, collated vyith the MSS. — W. 



What schuld I say? but at the montliis ende 
This joly clerk Jankyn, that was so heende, 
Hiith weddid aie witli ^n-t sohMiipnitee, 

kiO Aud to him gaf I a! tlie loud and fee 
That ever was me give therbifore. 
But aftir-ward repented me ful sore. 
He noldre suffVe nothing of my list. 
By God, he smot me oonos with his fist, 

(f iS" t^or I rent oones out of his book a lef, 
That of that strok myn core wax al dee£ 
Styborn I was, as is a leones, 
And of my tonge a veiray jaugleres, 
And walk I wold, as I had don ])iforn, 

S^£> Fro hous to hous, although he had it sworn ; 
For which he ofte tymcs wolde preche, 
And me of olde Komayn gestes teche. 
How he Simplicius Gallus left his wyf, 
And hir forsok for terme of al his lyf, 

^ ^y Nought but for open heedid' he hir say 
Lokying out at his dore upon a day. 
Another Romayn told he me by name. 
That, for his wyf was at a somer" gume 
Without his wityng, he forsok hir eeke. 

6i7> And thanne wold he upon his book seekc 
That like proverbe of Ecclcsiaste, 
Wher he comaundeth, and forbedith faste, 
Man schal not sufire his wyf go roule aboute.' 
Thau wold he say right thus withouten doute : 

^y^' Who that buyldeth his hoiis al of salwes. 

Anil prikoth his blynde liors over the falwes. 
And sutVrith his wyf to go seken hulwcs,-' 
Is worthy to be honged on the galwes. 

But al for nought ; T sette nought an hawe 
^ {f^ Of his proverbe, ne of his olde suwe ; 

' Literally translated from Valerius Afarimiis, lib. vi. c. 3. ' Uxorein 
diinisit, quod earn capite nperto versatam cognoverat." — T. 

- This expression arose from summer being the usual season for 
games. This story is alao from Valerius Maximas, lib. vi. c. J. 

» VaxIus. XXV. 14. « To go on pilgrima^'es. See ante, p. jlj. noti- 4 



Ne I wolde not of him corretted be. 
I hate him that my vices tellith me, 
And so doon mo, God it wot, than I. 
This made him with me wood al outerly; 

^^' I nolde not forbere him in no cas. 

Now wol I say yow soth, by seint Thomas, 
Why that I rent out of the boc^x; a leef, 
For which he smot me, that I was al deef. 
He had a book, that gladly night and day 

^^C For his desport he wolde rede alway; 
He clepyd it Valerye and Theofrast,^ 
At which book he lough alway ful fast. 
And eek ther was som tyme a clerk at Rome, 
A cardynal, that heet seint Jerome, 
^"Jb" That made a book agens Jovynyan. 

In which book eek ther was Tertulyan, 
Crisippus, Toi'tula, and eek Helewys, 
That was abbas not fer fro Paris; 
And eek the parablis of Salamon, 
^^fi Ovydes Art, and bourdes many oon ; 

And alle these were bound in oo volume. 
And every night and day was his custume, 
Whan he had leysir and vacacioun 
From other worldes occupacioun, 
(g^!} To reden in this book of wikked wyves. 
He knew of hem mo legendes and lyves, 
Than ben of goode wyves in the Bible. 
For trustith wel,,it is an inpossible, 

1 Epistola Valerii ad Rufimim., de non Diicenda Uxore was written by 
the celebrated Walter Mapes, and will be found as a chapter in hia 
work DeNugUs CuriaUum, edited by Mr. Wright. It frequently occurs 
in MSS. by itself, and is often quoted as a separate book. Liber 
Aureolus Theophrasti, de Nuptiis, is quoted by St. Jerome, Cmiira 
Jovinianum. To these two books Jean de Meun has been obliged for 
some of the severest strokes in his Reman de la Rose ; and Chancer ha« 
transferred the quintessence of all the three works (upon the subject 
of matrimony) into his Wyf of Bathes Prologc and Marchauvdes TnU. 
Theother works here mentioned, Tertidlian de PaHio, the Letters of Elmsa 
to Abdard, and Ovid's Art of Love, are well known. Tyrwhitt says, 
' I know of no Trotula but one, whose book, Curandarum yEgrititdinum 
MuUebriiim ante, iji, et post parttts, is printed irUer Medicos Anti<fliot, 
Ven. 1547. What is meant by Crieippus I cannot g^ess.' 



That any clerk schal aiiekc good of wyves, 
(ff^O Hut if it be of holy seiutes lyvea, 

Ne of iiooii othei" wyfes never the mo. 

Who peyntid the leoun, tel me, who? 

By God, if woinmen hadde writen stories, 

As clerkes liave withinue her oratories, 
^ ^y Thay wold have write of men more wickidnes, 

Than al the mai-k of Adam may redres. 

These children of Mercury and of Venus' 

Ben in her workyng ful contrarious. 

Mercury lovith wisdom and science, 
"Jfrt And Venus loveth ryot and dispense. 

And for her divers disposicioun, 

Ech fallith in otheres exaltacioun.* 

And thus, God wot. Mercury is desolate 

In Pisces, wher Venus is exaltate, 
7 ^b' And Venus faylith wher Mercury is reysed. 

Therfor no womman of clerkes is preised. 

The clerk whan he is old, and may nought do 

Of Venus werkis, is not worth a scho ; 

Than sit he doun, and writ in his dotage, 
7/^ That wommen can nought kepe here mariage. 

But now to purpos, why I tolde the, 

That 1 was beten for a leef, parde. 

Upon a night Jankyn, that was oure sire, 

Ead on his book, as he sat by the fyre, 
1 liT Of Eva first, that for hir wikkidnes 

Was al niankyndo brought to wrecchednes, 

For which that Jhesu Crist himself was slayn. 

That bought us with his herte-blood agayn, 

Lo here expresse of wommen may ye fynde, 
7 ]^ That woman was the lose of al mankynde. 

' Tlic pursuit of love, which is inspired by Venus, is incompatible 
with study, over which, and all its concomitants, presides Mercury. 

- In the old Astrolop>', a planet was said to be in its exaltation 
when it was in that sign of the Zodiac in which it was supposed to 
exert its strongest influence. The opposite sign was called its d/yVrtion, 
as in that it was supposed to be the weakest. To take the instance in 
the text, the exaltation of Venus was in Pisces, and her dejection, of 
course, in Virgo. But in Virgo waa the ^aUatvm of Mercury. — T. 



Tho rad he me how Sampson left his heris 
Slepyiig, his lemman kut hem with hir scheris, 
Thurgh which tresoun lost he bothe his yen. 

Tho rad^ he me, if that I schal not lyen, 
yti' Of Ercules, and of his Dejanyre, 

That caused him to sette himself on fiiyre. 

No thing forgat he the care and wo 

That Socrates had with his wy ves tuo ; 

How Exantipa^ cast pisse upon his heed. 
ySC This seely man sat stille, as he were deed, 

He wyped his heed, no moi-e durst he sayn, 

But ' Er thunder stynte ther cometh rayn.' 

Of Phasipha, that was the queen of Creete, 

For schrewednes him thought the tale sweete. 
JhS Fy ! spek no more, it is a grisly thing, 

Of her horribil lust and her likyng. 

Of Clydemystra for hir leccherie 

That falsly made hir housbond for to dye. 

He rad it with ful good devocioun. 
yCta He told me eek, for what occasioun 

Amphiores at Thebes left his lif ; 

Myn housbond had a legend of his wyf 

Exiphilem, that for an ouche of gold 

Hath prively unto the Grekes told 
Htb' Wher that her housbond hyd him in a place, 

For which he had at Thebes sory grace. 

Of Lyma told he me, and of Lucye ; 

Thay bothe made her housbondes for to dye, 

That oon for love, that other was for hate. 
yb'^ Lyma' hir housbond on an even late 

Empoysond hath, for that sche was his fo ; 

Lucia licorous loved hir housbond so, 

1 Most of the following instances are mentioned in the Epist. Valerii 
ad Rufimtm. See also Roman de la Rose, 96 1 5- 

• Xantippe. In the other proper names in the following lines Thave 
retained the corrupt orthography of the age, as given in the MS. 
t'hanipha is, of course, I'asiphae ; Clydemystra, Clyteranestra ; Am- 
phiores, Amphiaraus ; Exiphihm, Eriphyle, &c. — W. 

3 The story is told in the Eimt. Valerii. ' Luna [here called Lyma] 
Tirum 8uum interfecit quern nimis odivit ; Lucelia suum, quern nimia 



For that he schuld alway upon hir think, 
Sche gaf him such a maner love-driiik, 

7SS That he was deed er it w:i3 by the morwe; 
And thus algates houshondes liad sorwe. 
Than told he me, how oon Latumyus 
Conipleigned unto his felaw Arrius, 
That in his gardyn growed such a tre, 

7^0 On which he sayde how that liis wyves thre 
Honged hemselte for herte despitous. 
' O leve brother,' quod this Arrious, 
' Gif me a plont of thilke blessid tre. 
And in my gardyn schal it phintid be.* 

7 ^^' Of latter date of wyves hath he red 

That some han sUiyn her liousbondes in her bed, 
And let her lecchour dighten al the night, 
Wliil that the corjis lay in the flor upright; 
And som han dryven nayles in her brayn, 

77^ Whiles thay sleepe, and thus they han hem slayn ; 
Som have hem give poysoun in her drink ; 
He spak more harm than herte may bythynk. 
And tlun-withal he knew mo proverbes 
Than in this world ther growen gres or herbea. 

7 7^* * Better is, quod he, thyn habitacioun 
Be with a leoun, or a foul dragoun, 
Than with a worn man using for to chyde. 
Better is, quod he, hihe in the roof abyde, 
Than with an angiy womman doun in a hous; 

7ii They ben so wicked and so contrarious, 
Thay haten that her housbondes loven ay. 
He sayd, a womman caat hir schame away, 
Whan sche cast of hir smok ; and fortherrao, 
A fair womman, but sche be chast also, 

7^5* Is lyk a gold ryng in a sowes nose. 

Who wolde wene, or who wolde suppose 

«xnavit. Ilia sponte mlscult acunita ; hac dccepta furorcm propinarlt 
pro amoris proculo.' — See Tykwhitt. This is a hunioroua way of 
proving that a wite is a man's destruction, whether the love or hate. 
' Trov. xxi. 9, 13, xi. n. 


The wo that in myn herte was aad pynel 
And whan I saugh he nolde never fyne 
To reden on this cursed book al night, 
^^6 Al sodeinly thre leves have I plight 

Out of this booke that he had, and eeke 
T with my fist so took him on the cheeke, 
That in oure fuyr he fel bak-ward adoun. 
And he upstert, as doth a wood leoun, 
iCjl) And with his fist he smot me on the hed, 
That in the floor I lay as I were deed. 
And whan he saugh so stille that I lay, 
He was agast, and wold have fled away. 
Til atte last out of my swown I brayde. 

%o6 ' O, hastow slayn me, false thef ? ' I sayde, 

' And for my lond thus hastow mourdrid me ? 
Er I be deed, yit wol I kisse the.' 
And ner he cam, and knelith faire adoun, 
And sayde, ' Deere suster Alisoun, 

^Olo As help me God, I schal the never smyte; 
That I have doon it is thiself to wite ; 
Forgive it me, and that I the biseke.' 
And yet eftsones I hyt him on the cheke, 
And sayde, ' Thef, thus mekil I me wreke. 

^ (0 Now wol I dye, I may no lenger speke.' 
But atte last, with mochil care and wo, 
We fyl accordid by ourselven tuo ; 
He gaf me al the bridil in myn hand 
To have the governaunce of hous and land, 

^ Ijf And of his tonge, and of his bond also. 

And made him brenne his book anoon right tho. 

And whan I hadde geten unto me 

By maistry all the sovereynete, 

And that he seyde, ' Myn owne trewe wyf, 

$^ Do as the list the term of al thy lyf, 

Kepe thyn honour, and kep eek myn estat;' 
And after that day we never had debat. 
God help me so, I was to him as kynde 
As eny wyf fi-o Denmark unto Inde, 



ft^" And al so trewe was he unto me. 
I pray to God that sitte in mageste 
So blesse his soule, for his mercy deere. 
Now wol I say my tale, if ye wol heere.' 
The Frere lough when he had herd al this : 

$^ ' Now, dame,' quod he, ' so have I joye and blia, 
This. a long preambel of a tale.' 
And whan the Sompnour herd the Fi-ere gale, 
' Lo !' quod this Sompnour, ' for Goddes armes tuoi, 
A frer wol entremet him evermo. 

iA6 Lo, goode men, a flie and eek a frere 

Woln falle in every dissche and matiere. 
What spekst thou of perambulacioun?* 
What? ambil, or trot; or pees, or go sit doun; 
Thou lettest oure disport in this matere.' 

yt^a  Ye, woltow so, sir sompnour !' quod the Frere : 
' Now, by my fay, I schal, er that I go, 
Telle of a sompnour such a tale or tuo. 
That alle the folke schuln laugheu in this place.' 

* Now, ellis, frere, I byschi-ew thy face,'* 
r^6* Quod this Sompnour, ' and I byschi'ewe me, 

But if I telle tales tuo or thre 

Of freres, er I come to Sydingbome,' 

That I schall make thin herte for to mome; 

For wel I wot thy paciens is goon.' 
y ^<? Oure Hoste cride, ' Peas, and that anoon ;' 

And sayde, ' Let the worn man telle hir tale. 

Ye fare as folkes that dronken ben of ale. 

Do, dame, tel forth your tale, and that is best.' 

' Al redy, sir,' quod sche, ' right as you lest, 
^'5'^ If I have licence of this woi-thy frere.' 

* Yis, dame,' quod he, * tel forth, and I schal heere.' 

' The Sompnour's ear is caught by the word preamble, which he sap- 
poses to allude to his piofessional perambulations. 

- The meaning is, I accept your challenge. Do your worst, and it 
you do not, I beshrew or invoke a curse on your face. 

^ Sittiugboume, about half way between Uocheuter and Canterbury. 
— W. 



[The story told by this celebrated personage may be consi- 
dered as an illustration of her prologue, her object in both 
being to show that what women most desire, and what they 
moreover ought to have, is their will. The story of Florent, 
in Gower, and The Marriage of Sir Gawaine, in Percy s 
Reliques, are both founded upon this theme. Percy says that 
the latter * is chiefly taken from the fragment of an old 
ballad in the Editor's MS., which he has reason to believe 
more ancient than the time of Chaucer, and what furnished 
that bard with The Wyf of Bathes Tali. Tyrwhitt thinks 
that both Chaucer's and Gower's versions are taken from an 
older narrative in the Gesta Romanoriim, or some such col- 
lection; and that The Marriage of Sir Gawaine was written 
by some one who had seen both. Percy may, however, be 
right; for he states that /««s ballad was o\\\y founded on -^ 
mutilated copy, the deficiencies of which he probably sup- 
plied from Gower and Chaucer ; and this may account for the 
impression which his ballad conveyed to Tyrwhitt. The 
characteristic peculiarities of this bold and witty woman of the 
world are well preserved in her manner of relating the story.] 


N olde dayes of the kyng Artliour,^ 
Of which that Britoims speken gret honour, 

' All that is now known of this celebrated hero of romance is con- 
tained in the History of Geoffrey of Monmouth, a Welsh Benedictine 
monk, who about the year i iz8 translated into Latin an ancient chro- 
nicle in the Welsh or British language, entitled Bnit-y-Iireiiiki'd; or, 
the liUtory o/ the Kings of Jlritain, and discovered about the year i loo 
by Walter Archdeacon of Oxford, in Armorica or Hretagne. What 
became of the British original is not known; and all the nwmcrous 
romances on the same sulyect arc supposed to be subseijuent to, and 
derived from Geoffrey's Latin translation. Arthur's very existence has 
been called in question ; but this arose probably from the idea preva- 
lent among the antiquaries of the last century, that it was a point of 
honour to disbelieve anything told by a monk ; yet it seems unjihiloso- 
phical to reject a popular tradition preserved in all the national poetry 
of the Welsh and Britons of a period not very far removed from the 
date of their hero's existence, which is assigned to about the year 5o6. 
It would be endless to enumerate the romances and ballads founded on 


Al waa this lond fuliilled of fayrie ;' 
The elf-queen,"'' with hir joly coinpaignye, 

Arthur'!" exploits ainl mapniflcence, which formed the delight and the 
moilfl of princes ami knights in the days of Chaucer. Walsingham 
relates tliat Kdward III., after his triumphant return from Scotland, 
established in the cattle of Windsor afraternity of twenty-four knights, 
for whom he erected a round table, with a round chamber, which still 
remains, according to a similar institution of King Arthur. 

' Tlie ancient Britons of the time of Arthur were a mixed race, 
composed of the aboriginal inhabitants and the Konian colonists, who 
brought wth them from Italy that beautiful form of pantheism which 
still lives in the pages of Ovid. But when Chri-itianity emerged from 
the catacombs, it was not long in reaching the most distant colonies ; 
and its missionaries taught the people to regard their old deities as evil 
spirits, who had adopted that mode of withdrawing them from the wor- 
ship of the true God. Thus in Acts xvi. St. Paul is said to have cast out 
of a young woman an evil spirit of /'i/^ Aon, or Apollo, which had enabled 
her to prophesy; ami, i Cor. x. io, he says, ' The things which the 
Gentiles sacrifice, they .■jacriflce to daemons.' Following Scripture, our 
great Christian poet, in his enumeration of the fallen spirits who first 
rose from the burning lake, after mentioning the gods of the rhilistines 
describes the classic deities — 

' The rest were long to tell, though far renowned ; 
The Ionian gods, of Japan's issue held 


These first in Crete 
And Ida known, thence on the snowy top 
Of colli Olympus, ruled the middle air. 
Their highest Heaven ; on the Delphian cliff, 
Or in l)uiii)na, and through all the bounds 
Of Doric land.' 

Bat though the Church taught that these idols were ministers of the 

Evil Spirit, whom Christians had renounced, it was difficult to eradicate 
a form of pantheism so fascinating that even now it captivates many 
minds ; and so the matter was compromised. Like the Israelites, under 
similar circumstances, the people ' worshipped .Jehovah, and served 
Baalim ;' and hence was derived the belief in those mysterious beings, 
who. like the go<ls of (irceco and Rome, personified the powers of 
nature and the passions of the human heart ; who peopled every grove 
and stream, and rode upon the eddying whirlwind ; who were neither 
absolutely good nor utterly evil, but ' ruled the middle air;' and who 
were therefore regarded with a mixture of fear and good-will by the 
ancient Britons at the p'xiod when the Kuman traditions had not yet 
had time to die away. Then it was that the land was ' Aiz/flVi' </ of 
fayrie,' that is, with the lingering worship of the deities of ancient 
Kome, which was afterwards mingled with the Gothic mythology. 

' The Queen of Fairy, who reprudeuled i'roeerpine in tlie old mylho- 
k>gy. See Manliauiuhs J'aie. 


Daunced ful oft in many a grene mede. 

This was the old oppynyoun, as I rede ; 

I speke of many huncli-id yer ago ; 

But now can no man see noon elves mo. 

For now the grete charite and prayeres 

Of lymytoiirs and other holy freres, 

That sechen every lond and every streem, 

As thik as motis in the sonne-beem, 

Blessyng halles, chambres, kichenes, and boures, 

Citees and burghes, castels hihe and toures, 

Thropes and bernes, shepnes and dayeries/ 

That makith that ther ben no fayeries. 

For ther as wont was to walken an elf, 

Ther walkith noon but the lymytour himself, 

In undermeles and in morwenynges, 

And saith his matyns and his holy thinges 

As he goth in his lymytatioun." 

Wommen may now go sauliy up and doun ; 

In every bussch, and under every tre, 

Ther is non other incubus' but he, 

1 In the old rituals are forms of invoking a blessing upon everything 
dedicated to the service of man. There is a Benedictio domonim, loci, 
domus novae, thalami, novae navis (a great deal better than our profane 
form of ' christening' a vessel) novorum fVuctuum, &c. Of these forms 
our custom of 'saying grace' or' blessing the meat,' as the Scots say, is 
a remnant. 

2 All religious persons were bound, if possible, to recite the divine 
office, here called ' his matyns and his holy thinges,' at the proper hour, 
in the choir; but secular priests, not living in common, and friars, 
being by their rule obliged to walk about within their limitation to beg 
their maintenance, were allowed to say it privately at ' undermeles,' after 
dinner, as they walked. Of this there is a vestige in the order prefixed 
to our Book of Common Prayer, which directs that all priests and dea- 
cons shall say the matins and evensong, either publicly or privately, 
not being hindered by sickness. See Schipmannes Tale. 

^ This is an example of Chaucer's light and well-bred satire ; — he 
gays just enough to raise a smile at the person satirised, and passes on 
without effort or ill-humour to the main subject. Of the propensities 
of the incubus, whose place the friar is supposed to have taken, we may 
judge from the exquisite ballad of Tamlam, given in Scott's Border 
Afinntrelsy, vol. ii. : — 

' O, I forbid ye maidens a'. 

That wear gowd in your hair. 
To come orgae by Cartcrhaugh, 
For young Taulane is there. 


Ami he ne wol doon liein uo disliononr.' 

And so bit'el it, that this king Arthuur 
Had in his hous a lusty bachelor, 
That on a day com rydyng fro ryver ;* 
And happed, al alone us scho was born. 
He saugh a mayde walkyng him byforn, 
Of which may den anoon, maugre hir heed, 
By verray fors byraft hir maydenhed. 
For which opj)ressioun was such clamour, 
And such pursuyte unto kyng Arthour, 
That dampncd was the knight and schuld be ded 
By coui-s of lawe, and schuld have lost his heed, 
(Paraventure such was the statut tho,) 
But that the qiieen and other ladys mo 
So longe preyedeu they the kyng of grace, 
Til he his lif hath gi-auuted in the place. 

There's nane that gaes by Carterhaugh, 

But maun give him a wad. 
Either gowd rings or green mantles. 

Or else their maidenhead.' 

The fair Janet, however, despises the warning, and when questioned by 
her father, says, — 

' If my love were an eartlily wight. 
As he's an elfin ffray,' &c. 
The incubus, in fact, corresponds witli tlit Jupiters, Apollos, and 
Plutos of the old mythology, and from them inherited his love for mor- 
tal beauties. This proved often a convenient l)elicf ; and ."^cott relates 
a story of a lady who accounted to her lord oti liis return from the Cru- 
sade for the presence of a boy, whose age could not be made to 
correspond with the time of his departure, by declaring that the river 
Tweed had insisted on becoming the father of lier son, who was after- 
wards the ancestor of tlie well-known family of Tweeddie. Thu.s, in 
Dunbar's Golden Taryv, — 

' Thair was I'luto, that elritch incubus. 
In cloke of greene.' 
The allusion appears to be to the linpe of Proserpine. See also 
Mercutio's description of Queen Mab, L'omco ami Juliet, Act i. so. 4. 

' The Harl. JIS. reads this line, evidently incorrectly, Antl ne irol 
but dt>on hem dishonour. In the previous line the same manuscript 
reads erroneously i'irunili<iit, instead of iiirubu.<i. — W. 

- It means from hawking at water-fowl. Froissart, vol. i. c.l. 140, 
snys : — • i,e comte de t'landrcs estoit toiyours r;i riviere — un jouradvint 
qu'il alia voUer en la rinere — et getta son fauconier un faucon apre* le 
heron.' Sire Thopas is described as following this knightly sport. 

VOL. I. Z 


And gaf him to the queen, al at hir wille 

To chese wethir sche wold him save or spille. 

The queen thanked the kyng with al hir might; 

And after thus sche spak unto the knight. 

Whan that sche saugh hir tyme upon a day : 

' Thow gtondest yet,' quod sche, 'in such array, 

That of thy lyf hastow no sewerte ; 

I graunte thy lif, if tho\i canst telle me, 

What thing is it that wommen most desiren; 

Be war, and keep thy nek-bon fi-o the iren. 

And if thou canst not tellen it anoon. 

Yet wol I give the leve for to goon 

A twelfmonth and a day,^ it for to lere 

An answer suffisant in this matiere. 

And seurte wol I have, er that thou pace, 

Thy body for to yelden in this place.' 

Wo was this knight, and sorwfully he siked ; 

But what ? he may not doon al as him liked, 

And atte last he ches him for to wende, 

And come agein right at the yeres ende 

With swich answer as God him wolde purveye ; 

And takith his leve, and wendith forth his weye. 

He sekith every lious and every place, 

Wher so he hopitli for to fynde grace, 

To lerne what thing wommen loven most; 

But he ne couthe arryven in no cost, 

Wher as he mighte fynde in this mattiere 

Two creatures accordyng in fere.^ 

Some sayden, wommen loven best richesse, 

Some sayde honour, and some sayde jolyuesse, 

Some riche array, some sayden lust on bedde, 

And ofte tyme to be wydow and wedde. 

' There seems to have been some mysterious importance attached to 
this particular time of grace : perhaps the day was allowed the crimi- 
nal over and above the full time of a year, so that he might not sutler 
from any merely accidental detention, on the same principle that the 
prisoner is entitled to the benefit of any doubt which may remain in the 
minds of the jurv. 

2 The Harl. MS. reads, To these thinges accordyng in fere.— W. 


Some sayden owre herte is most i-cased 
\\'luiu we ben y-Hatorid and y-prcised ;' 
He goth ful ueigh the soth, 1 wil not lye ; 
A mail schal wyiiue lis best with flaterye ; 
And with attendaiince, and witli busynesse 
Ben we y-limid both more and lesse. 
And some sayen, tliat we loven best 
For to be fre, and to doon as us lest, 
And that no man repreve us of oure vice, 
But say that we ben wys, and no thing nyce. 
For trewely ther is noon of us alle, 
If euy wight wold claw us on the galle,* 
That we nyl like, for he saith us soth ; 
Assay, and he schal fynde it, that so doth. 
For be we never so vicious withinne, 
We schuln be holde wys and clone of synne. 
And some sayen, that gret delit han we 
For to be holden stabil and secre, 
And in oon purpos stedfastly to duelle, 
And nought bywreye thing that men us telle. 
But that tale is not worth a rakes stele. 
Pardy, we wymmen can right no thing hele, 
Witnes on Mida ; wil ye here the tale ? 
Ovyd,' among his other thinges smale, 
Sayde Mida had under his lange heris 
Growyug upon his heed tuo asses eeris; 
The whiche vice he hid, as he best miglit, 
Ful subtilly fro every mannes sight, 
That, save his wyf, ther wist of that nomo ; 
He loved hir most, and trusted hir also ; 
He prayed hir, that to no creature 
Sche schulde tellen of his disQgure. 

' The Harl. M.S. reads y-pleaaed; but the reading I have adopts 
seems to give the bust sense. — W. 

- Tliis expression means, literally, to rub or stroke on a sore place ; 
metaphorically, to llattcr us in that very particuliir in which we feel 
uurselves deticieut. 

* Ovid, ihtamorph., lib. xi. 

z 2 


Sche swor bim, nay, for al this world to wynne, 
Sche nolde do that vilonye or synne 
To make hLr housband have so foul a name; 
Sche wold not tel it for hir oughne schame. 
But natheles hir thoughte that sche dyde, 
That sche so longe a counseil scholde hyde ; 
Hir thought it swal so sore about hir hert, 
That needely som word hir most astert; 
And sins sche dorst not tel it unto man, 
Doun to a marreys faste by sche ran, 
Til sche cam ther, hir herte was on fuyre ; 
And as a bytoure^ bumblith in the myre, 
Sche layde hir mouth unto the water doun. 
' ByMTey me not, thou watir, with thi soun.' 
Quod sche, ' to the I telle it, and nomo, 
Myn honsbond hath long asse eeris tuo. 
Now is myn hert al hool, now is it oute, 
I might no lenger kepe it out of doute.' 
Her may ye se, theigh we a tyme abyde. 
Yet out it moot, we can no counseil hyde. 
The remenaunt of the tale, if ye wil here, 
Redith Ovid, and ther ye mow it leere. 

This knight, of wliich my tale is specially, 
"Whan that he saugh he might nought come therby, 
This is to say, that wommen loven most, 
Withinne his brest ful sorwful was the gost. 
But hom he goth, he might not lenger sojourne. 
The day was come, that hom-ward most he tome. 
And in his way, it hapnyd him to ride 
In al his care, under a forest side, 
"Wher as he saugh upon a daunce go 
Of ladys four and twenty, and yit mo 
Toward tliis ilke daunce he drough ful yeme. 
In hope that he som wisdom schtdd i-lerne ; 

' The bittern is said to make its peculiar noise, tvliich is called bum- 
bling, by thrusting its bill into the mud, and blowiug.— See Bewick's 
B^-ilish Birds. 


But certeynly, er he com fully there, 

Vanysshid was this daunce, he nyste where; 

No creature saugh he that bar lit", 

Sauf ou the greeiie he saugh sittying a wyf, 

A fouler wight ther may no man devyse. 

Agens the knight this olde wyf gan ryse, 

And siiyd, ' Sir knight, heer fortli lith no way; 

Tel me what ye soekyn, by your fay 

Paradventuro it may the better be : 

Thise olde folk con niochil thing,' quod sche, 

* My lieve niodir,' quod this knight, 'cej-tayn 

I am but ded but if that I ^an sayn 

What thing is it that womn)en most desire; 

Couthe ye me wisse, I wold wel quyt your liuyre.' 

' Plight me thy trouth her in myn bond,' quod sche, 

' The nexte thing that I require the, 

Thou schalt it doo, if it be in thy might, 

And I wol telle it the, er it be night.' 

' Have her my trouthe,'quod the knight, 'I gi-aunte.' 

' Thanne,' quod sche, ' I dar me wel avaunte, 

Thy lit is sauf, for I wol stonde therby, 

Upon my lif the queen wol say as I ; 

Let se, which is the proudest of hem alle, 

That werith on a coverchiuf or a calle, 

That dar say nay of thing I schal the teche. 

Let us go forth withouten more s])eche.' 

Tho rowned sche a pistil in his eere, 

And bad him to be glad, and have no fere. 

Whan thay ben comen to the court, this knight 

Sayd, he had holde his day, that he hight, 

Al redy was his answer, as he sayde. 

Ful many a noble wyf, and many a mayde, 

And many a wydow, for that thay ben wyse, 

The queen hii-self sittyng as a justise,' 

' Queen Guenover U represents sitting as jiidfie in a 'Court of Lovt,' 
Rimilar to tUiy>n in fashion in later iiffw, of the proceedings of which 
we have a 'rejiort.' in hi.-< ixx-ni calli'd I he futirt uf Love (vol. iv. p. lU>\ 
Fouteuelle (iu the tliirU vol. of hU works, l'ari.<, 1742) h«8 given a Jj- 


Assemblid ben, his answer for to hiere; 
And after- ward this knight was bode appiere, 
To every wight comaundid was silence, 
And that the knight schuld telle in audience 
What thing that worldly wommen loven best. 

This knight ne stood not stille, as doth a best, 
But to the questioun anoon answerde, 
With manly voys, that al the court it herde; 
' My liege lady, generally,' quod he, 
' Wommen desiren to have soveraynte 
As wel over hir housbond as over hir love, 
And for to be in maystry him above. 
This is your most desir, though ye me kille ; 
Doth as yow list, I am heer at your wille.' 
In al the court ne was ther wyf, ne mayde, 
Ne wydow, that contraried that he sayde; 
But sayden, he was worthy have his lif. 
And with that word upstart that olde wif, 
Which that the knight saugh sittyng on the grene. 
' Mercy,' quod sche, ' my soveraign lady queene, 
Er that your court departe, doth me right. 
I taughte this answer unto the knight ; 
For which he plighte me his trouthe there, 
The firste thing that I wold him requere, 
He wold it do, if it lay in his might. 
Before this court then pray I the, sir knight,' 
Quod sche, ' that thou me take unto thy wif. 
For wel thou wost, that I have kept thy lif ; 
If I say fals, sey nay, upon thy fey.' 
This knight answerd, ' Alias and waylawey !* 

gcription of one of the fantastic suits tried in these courts. Abont the 
year 1206, the Queen of France was appealed to from an unjust sen- 
tence pronounced in the Court of Love of the Countess of Champagne ; 
but the Queen replied, ' God forbid that 1 should presume to reverse 
the sentence of the Countess of Champagne!' The best source of in- 
formation on these strange follies is a book entitled Erotica, sen Ama- 
tcria, Andrea CapoUarii Rey'ix, &c., written about A.D. 117°. and pub- 
lished at Dorpmund in 16 10. 

' The knight's unwillingness is more n.itural, and affords a better 
contrast to the sequel, than Sir Gawaine's excessive complaisance in 
Percy's ballad. 


I wot right wel that such was iny byhest. 

For Goddes love, as chese a new request ; 

Tak til my gootl, and let my hcxly go.' 

' Nay,' quod sclie than, ' I schrew us bothe tuo. 

For though that I be foule, old, and pore, 

I nolde for al the metal ne for the oi-e 

That under erthe is gi-ave, or lith above, 

But I thy wife were and eek thy luve.' 

' My lovef quod he, ' nay, nay, ray dauipnacioun. 

Alias ! that eny of my naciouu 

Schuld ever so foule disparagid be!' 

But al for nought; the eude is this, that he 

Constreigned was, he needes most hir wedde, 

And takith his wyf, and goth with hir to bedde. 

Now wolden som men say paradventure, 
That for my necgligence I do no cure 
To telle yow the joye and tharray 
That at that fest was maad that ilke day. 
To which thing schortly answeren I schal. 
And say ther uas feste ne joy at al, 
Ther nas but hevynes and mociiil sorwe ; 
For prively he wetldyd hir in a morwe. 
And alday liudde him as doth an oule. 
So wo was him, his wyf Inked so fouI<'. 
Gret was the wo the kuiglit had in his thought 
Whan he was with his wyf on bedde brought, 
He walwith, and he torneth to and fro. 
His olde wyf lay smylyng ever mo. 
And sayd, ' O deere hoxisbond, benedicUe, 
Fareth every knight with his wyf as ye ! 
Is this the lawe of king Arthur^'s hous? 
Is every knight of his thus daungt-rous? 
I am your oughne love, and eek your wyf, 
I am sche that hath savyd your Ivf, 
And certes ne dede I yow never unriglit. 
Why fare ye thus with me the fii-ste night 1 
Ye fare lik a man that had left his wit. 
What is my gult ? for Godes love, tel me 


And it schal be amendid, if that I may.' 

' Amendid!' quod this knight, ' alias! nay, nay, 

It wol nought ben amendid, never mo ; 

Thow art so lothly, and so old also, 

And therto comen of so lowh a kynde, 

That litil wonder is though I walwe and wynde : 

So wolde God, myn herte wolde brest!' 

' Is this,' quod sche, 'the cause of your unrest f 

' Ye, certeyuly,' quod he, ' no wonder is !' 

' Now, sire,' quod sche, * I couthe amende all 

If that me list, er it were dayes thre, 
So wel ye mighte bere yow to me. 
But for ye speken of such gentilesse 
As is descendit out of old richesse, 
Therfor scliuld ye ben holden gentil men ; 
Such an'ogaunce is not worth an hen. 
Lok who that is most vertuous alway, 
Pi'ive and pert,^ and most entendith ay 
To do the gentil dedes that he can, 
Tak him for the grettest gentil man, 
Crist wol we clayme of him oure gentilesse.^ 
Nought of oure eldres for her plde richessa* 
For though thay give us al her heritage, 
For which we clayme to be of high pai-age, 
Yit may thay not biquethe, for no thing, 
To noon of us, so vertuous lyvyng, 
That made hem gentil men y-callid be, 
And bad us folwe hem in such degre. 
Wel can the wyse poet of Florence, 
That hatte Daunt, speke of this sentence ; 

' Most virtuous both privately and before the world. Pert i? put foi 
apert, open. 

2 Christ desires that we should rest our claim to nobility on ITim, 
tliat is, on our virtue, which is His gift. 

' The Harl. MS. reads, /or our gret riciicser. 


Lo, in such nianei- of rym is Dauntes tale; 

Fill seeld iiprisitli by liis brauiichis smale' 

Prowes of man, for God of his prowesse 

Wol that wo chiinie of liini our "entilesse ; 

For of our auucestres we no tiling clayme 

But temporal thing, that men may hurt and 

Ek every wight wot this as wel as I, 
If gentiles were plaunted naturelly 
Unto a certayn lignage doun the line, 
Prive ne apert, thay wolde never fine 
To don of gentilesce the fair office, 
Thay might nought doon no vileny or vice. 
Tak fuyr and ber it in the derkest hous 
Bitwixe this and the mount Caukasous, 
And let men shit the dores, and go thenne, 
Yit wol the fuyr as fair and lighte brenne 
As twenty thousand men might it biholde; 
His office naturel ay wol it holde, 
Up peril on my lif, til that it dye. 
Her may ye se wel, how that genterye 
Js nought annexid to possessioun, 
Sithins folk ne doou hor operacioun 
Alway, as doth the fuyr, lo,'' in his kynde. 
For God it wot, men may ful often fynde 
A lordes sone do schame and vilonye. 
And he that wol have pris of his gentrie, 
For he was boren of a gentil hous, 
And had his eldres noble and vertuous. 
And nyl hiuiselvi; doo no gentil dedes 
Ne folw his gentil aunceter, that deed is, 

I Dejite, Purgatorio, \ii. 121: — 

' IJadc volti! risurpe per li rami 
L' liuniaim protiitate ; ed questo vuole 
Quel die lu da, perche da se 8i chiaini.' 

• Lo : is here very expres:>ive ; it means, as you can sec. 


He is nought gentil, be he duk or erl ; 

For vileyn synful deedes maketh a cheri, 

For gentilnesse nys but renome 

Of thin auncestres, for her heigh bounte, 

Which is a stravmge thing to thy persona ; 

Thy gentilesce cometh fro God alloone. 

Than comth oure verray gentilesse of grace, 

It was no thing biquethe us with oure place. 

Thinketh how nobil, as saith Valerius, 

Was thilke Tullius Hostilius, 

That out of povert ros to high noblesse. 

Redith Senek, and redith eek Boece, 

Ther schuln ye se expresse, that no dred is, 

That he is gentil that doth gentil dedis. 

And therfor, lieve housbond, I conclude, 

Al were it that myn auncetres wer rude, 

Yit may the highe God, and so hope I, 

Graunte me grace to ly ve vertuously ; 

Than am I gentil, whan that I bygynne 

To lyve vertuously, and weyven synne. 

And ther as ye of povert me repreve, 

The heighe God, on whom that we bilieve, 

In wilful povert ches to lede his lif ;^ 

And certes, every man, may den, or wyf. 

May understonde that Jhesus, heven king, 

Ne wold not chese a vicious lyvyng. 

Glad povert is an honest thing certayn; 

This wol Senek and other clerkes sayn. 

W^ho that holt him payd of his povert, 

I holde him riche, al had he nought a schert. 

He that coveitith is a pore wight, 

For he wold have that is not in his might. 

But he that nought hath, ne coveyteth nought to 

Is riche, although ye hold him but a knave ; 

> The Harl. MS. lias lese, which appears to hare been a mere error of 
the scribe. — W. 


Verray povert is synne propiely. 

* Juvenal' saith of povert, merily 
The pore man whau he gotli by tlie way 
Bifore the theves he may synge and i)lay. 
Povert is hateful good ; and, as I gesse, 
A ful gi-ct brviigor out of busynesse ; 
A gret amendcr eek of saj)iens 
To him that takith it in paciens. 
Povert is this, although it seme elenge,* 
Possessioun that no wight wil chalenge. 
Povert, ful often, whan a man is lowe, 
Makith him his God and eek himself to knowe. 
Povert a spectacle is, as thinkith me, 
Thurgh which he may his verray frendes se; 
And therfor, sir, syth that I yow nought greve, 
Of my povert no more me repreve. 

' Now, sir, of elde ye repreve me ; 
And oertes, sir, though noon aiictorite 
Were in no book, ye gentils of honour 
SajTi that men schuld an old wight doon favour, 
And clepe him fader, for your gentilesse ; 
And auctours I schal f}-nden, as I gesse. 

' Now ther that ye sajn I am foul and old. 
Than drede you nought to ben a cokewold. 
For filthe and elde," al so mot I the, 
Ben grete wardeyns upon chastite. 
But natheles, sith I knowe your delyt, 
I schal fuliille youre worldly appetyt. 

1 Sal. X. 2Z, 

• These sophistical common-jilaces, which never convinced anyone, 
are taljen, as Tyrwhitt says, from Vincent of lieauvais, Spec. Hist., lib. x. 
c. 71- 

J This is, perhaps, the reason of the strange predilection for filth 
observable in many of the saints an(i hermits, even of the early church. 
In Terence's Umutontimoreurrwiios. Sjtus, wishing to prove Antipliila'i 
chastity, thus describes her nUtuige — 

' Una ancillula 
Erat ; ea texebat una, pnunu-i ohfita, 
Keglecta, iminutula iiluvu'.' — Act ii. ao.z. 


Chese, now,' quod sche, ' oon of these thinges 

To have me foul and old til that I deye, 

And be to yow a trewe humble wyf, 

And never yow displease in al my lyf ; 

Or elles ye wol have me yong and tair, 

And take your aventure of the repair' 

That schal be to your hous by cause of me, 

Or in som other place it may wel be. 

Now chese yourselven whethir that yow liketh. 

This knight avysith him, and sore sikith, 

But atte last he sayd in this manere: 

' My lady and my love, and wyf so deere, 

I putte me in your wyse governaunce, 

Chesith yourself which may be most pleasaunce 

And most honour to yow and me also, 

I do no fors the whether of the tuo , 

For as yow likith, it suffisith me.' 

' Than have I gete of yow the maystry,' quod sche, 

' Sith I may govern and chese as me list ]' 

' Ye certis, wyf,' quod he, ' I hold it best.' 

' Kys me,' quod sche, ' we ben no lenger wrothe, 

For, by my trouthe, I wol be to yow bothe, 

This is to say, ye, bothe fair and good. 

1 pray to God that I mot sterve wood ; 
But I be to yow al so good and trewe 

As ever was wyf, siththen the world was newe ; 
And but I be to morow as fair to seen 
Ay eny lady, emperesse, or queen. 
That is bitwixe thest and eek the west,_^ 
Doth by my lyf right even as yow lest.' _ 
Cast up the cortyns, and look what this is.' 
And whan the knyght saugh verrayly al this, 

' That is, Take your chance for the number of men who may resort 
to your house to pay their addresses to me. 

2 The second Cambridge MS. reads, instead of this line:— 

' And so they slept tille the morwe pray : 
And than she saide, wlien it was day, 
' Caste up the cui-teyn, loke liowe it is.' ' 


That sche so fuir was, and so yong therto, 
For joye ho hi'iit hir in his armes tuo ; 
Hi:? herto bathid in a bath of blisse, 
A thousand tyme on rowe he gan liir kisae. 
And sche obeyed him in every thing 
That mighte doou him pleisauns or likyng. 
And thus thay lyve unto her lyves end 
In parfyt joye ; and Jhesu Crist us sende 
Housbondes meke, yonge, and freissche on bedde, 
And grace to overbyde hem that we wedde. 
And eek I pray to Jhesus schort her lyves, 
That wil nought be governed after her wyves. 
And old and angry nygardes of despense, 
God send hem sone verray pestilence ! 


T^HIS worthy lymytour, this noble Frere, 

■*- He made alway a maner lourynge cheere 

Upon the Sompnour, but for honeste 

No vileyn's worde yit to him spak he. 

But atte last he sayd unto the wyf, 

* Dame,' quod he, ' (Jod give yow good lyi ! 

Ye han her touchid, al so mot I the, 

In scole matier gi-et dilEculte. 

Ye han sayd mochel thing right wel, I say} 

But dame, right as we ryden by the way. 

Us needeth nought but for to speke of game, 

And lete auctorites,' in Goddes name, 

To preching and to scoles of clergie. 

But if it like to this company e, 

I wil yow of a sompnour telle a game ; 

Parde, ye may wel knowe by the name, 

' Auctoritns means the text, and ej^jositio auctoritaiis, the comment. 
It is api)lird not only to Scripture, but to any authority, as we still use 
the word. TUus .lehan de Vignay, in his introduction to the French 
translation of the Ltgenda Aurea, says. Monseigneur Saint Hierosme ma 
dit ccate auctorite. 


lliat of a sompnoiir may no good be sayd ; 
I pray that noon of yow be evel apayd ; 
A sompnoiir is a renner up and doun 
With maundementz for fornicacioun,^ 
And is y-bete at every tonnes eende.' 

Our oste spak, ' A ! sir, ye schold been heende, 
And curteys, as a man of your estaat, 
In company we wol have no debaat ; 
Telleth your tale, and let the Sompnour be.' 
' Nay,' quoth the Sompnoiir, ' let him say to me 
What so him list ; whan it cometh to my lot, 
By God ! I schal him quyten every grot. 
I schal him telle which a gret honour 
Is to ben a fals flateryng lymytour. * 
And his offis I schal him telle I wis.' 
Oui-e host answerd, 'Pees, no more of this." 
And after this he sayd unto the Frere, 
' Telleth forth your tale, my leve* maister deere.' 


[This tale was probably translated, as Mr. Wright conjectures, 
from some old fabliau, which also furnished the groundwork 
of the short tale entitled De Advocato et Diabolo, published by 
the Percy Society in a collection of Latin Stories, edited by Mr. 
Wright. Another version of the story, still closer to Chaucer's 
tale, has since been discovered in the British Museum (MS. 

' Citations, or summonses, addressed to tliose accused of breaches of 
the canons, to appear and answer in the Archdeacon's court. The 
officer charged with the duty of serving these was no doubt often visited 
with the same summary punishment which is said to have been often 
inflicted on sheriffs' officers in Ireland in the last century. The somp- 
nour, as his name implies, was the summoner, or server of summonees, 
answering to our modern apparitor 

- It is strange that St. Francis and St. Dominic should not have 
foreseen that their rule, requiring tlie friars to obtain their livelihood 
by begging from house to house, would necessarily impair their inde- 
pendence of mind, and habituate them to the arts of flattery. 
' Ilarl. MS., and fuid the sompiwur this. 
* Harl. MS., kve is omitted. 


Cotton. Cleopatra, D. viii., I'ol. no), and published by Mr. 
Wriylit in the Archceolvgia, vol. xxxii.] 

TTT'HILOM there was dwellyng in my countre 
' ' An erchedeken, a man of gret degre, 
That boldely did execucioun, 
lu punyschyng of fornicacioun, 
Of wiechecraft, and eek of bauderye, 
Of diffamacioun, and avoutrie, 
Of chirche-reves, and of testamentes, 
Of contractes, and of lak of sacraments/ 
And eek of many another manor cryme, 
Which needith not to reherse at this tyme; 

1 ' Lak of sacraments' means the neglect of the Church's precept t« 
communicate at Easter, to which sacramental confession was, in the 
medi.'Eval Church, practically, though not theoretically, a necessary 

The system of errlesiastical discipline upon which this tale is 
founded requires sonic further explanation. 

In the Church of the first three centuries ecclesiastical censures had 
the effect of depriving tlie offender of spiritual privileges only. — See 
BiNGHAM'9 Antiquities, &c., 16, z, 3. But when the empire became 
Christian, under Constantine and his successors, anew principle was 
gradually introduced. It was thought that the State was bound to 
add it< temporal. to the Church's spiritual, sanctions; and the contuma- 
cious or excoinraunicuted person was coerced by civildisabilities. After 
the destruction of tlie Human Kmpire, the same legal principle was 
adopted by the several states of Christendom founded upon its ruins. 
and therefore forms an inijrartant part of mediceval jurisprudence. 
See a very apposite illustration of this in the first part of De Join- 
ville'S Memoirs oj Louis IX., near the end. 

At the Reformation, the several reformed communities adopted the 
tame principle. The Calvinists, or Tresbyterians, at Geneva, in Scot- 
land, and in Kngland during their short term of power, were especially 
zealous in enforcing it. — See Preface to Hooker's ffccles. Pol. 

The canons of the Church of England, passed in 1604, which still in 
many respects regulate the practice of the English Ecclesiastical 
Courts, bear witness to the system as enforced in the reigns of the 
Tudors and Stuarts. — See particularly Canons 1, 6^t, and i ij, in which 
the Questman seems to have performed many of the duties ol Chaucer'fc 
compnour. These have now become obsolete, partly from being incon- 
eistent with recent statutes, and partly by the tacit consent of all parties. 

Most of the communities cf non-conformists, however, maintain a 
principle of discipline similar to that of the Ante-Nicene Church, their 
• reading out of meeting' being exactly equivalent to the excommuni- 
cation of the early ages of Christianity. 


Of usur, and of symony also ; 

But certes leccliours did he grettest woo ; 

Thay schulde synge, if that they were hent; 

And smale tythers thay were fouly schent, 

If eny persoun wold upon hem pleyne, 

Ther might astert him no pecunial peyne. 

For smale tythes and for smal ofFrynge,' 

He made the poeple pitously to synge. 

For er the bisschop caught hem in his hook,* 

They weren in the archedeknes book:^ 

And hadde thxirgh his juvediccioun 

Power to have of hem correccioun. 

He had a sompnour redy to his bond, 

A slyer boy was noon in Engelond ; 

Ful prively he had his espiaile, 

That taughte him wher he might avayle. 

He couthe spare of lecchours oon or tuo, 

To techen him to fom* and twenty mo. 

For though this sompnour wood were as an hare, 

To telle his harlotry I wol not spai-e ; 

For we ben out of here correccioun, 

They have of us no jurediccioun,* 

' The neglect to pay tithes and Easter offerings came under the 
archdeacon's jurisdiction, as the bishop's diocesan otficer. The friar does 
not scruple to make an invidious use of this subject at the expense of tlie 
parochial clergy, because, being obliged by his rule to gain liis liveli- 
hood by begging, he had no interest in tithes. 

- An allusion to the bishop's pastoral staff, which was in the shape 
of a sheep-hook. Its form and symbolical meaning are thus described 
in the Vision of Piers Plowman: — 

' Dobest is above bothe, 
And berith a bischopis ' crois,' 
And is hokid on that on end 
To halie men fro belle. 
And a pike is in the poynt 
To put adon the wyked.' 
•* Offenders were, in the first instance, summoned before the arch- 
deacon, and afterwards, if found incorrigible, transferred to the bishop, 
who alone had the power of inflicting the greater excommunication. 

■* The religious orders, but particularly the mendicants or friars, were, 
by special dispensation of the pope, exempt from the bishop's jurisdic- 
tion, and placed under that of their general or superior only, with, of 
course, an appeal to the supreme pontiff. This was a fertile subject of 


Ne never scliul to terme of alle her lyves. 
' Peter! so beeu the woiunieii of the styv-es," 
Quod this Soinimour, ' i-])ut out of oure cures.' 
'Pees! witli uieschauuce and witli mosaveutures,' 
Thus sayd our host, ' and let him telle his tale. 
Now telleth forth, although the Soinpnour gale, 
Ne spareth nought, niyn owne maister deere.' 

This false theef, the sonijiuour, ijuoth the frere, 
Had ahvay bawdes redy to his hond, 
As eny hauk to lure in Eugeloiul,^ 
That told him al the secre that thay knewe, 
For here acqueintaimce was not come of newe ; 
Tliay were his approwours prively. 
He took himself a gret pi-ofyt tlierby ; 
His maister knew nat alway what he wan. 
Withoute mauiidement, a lewed man. 
He couthe sompue, up peyne of Cristas cm-s, 
And thay were glad to fiUe wel his purs, 
And make him grete festis atte nale. 
Aud right as Judas ^ hadde purses smale 
And was a theef right such a theef was he, 
His maister had not half his duete; 
He was (if I schal give him his laude) 
A theef, a sompnour, and eek a baude. 
Aud he had wenches at his retenue, 
That whethir that sir Robei't or sir Huche,* 

Jealousy between the several rival orders, and between them all and the 
parochial clergy, of wliicli the antipathy sliown by the friar and somp- 
nour to each other is an example. So 'Jack Upland' a^ks the friar. 
• Wliv be ye not under your bishop's visitation, and lief;enien to our 
king ?' 1 he chronicles of the middle ages, e.specially that of Richard 
of Devizes, are fillfd with their mutual reproaches. 

' The Kompnour's npartee is founded upon the law by which houses 
of ill-fame were exempttd from ecclesiastical interference, and licensed, 
on the principle that they were a necessary evil, and might thus be kept 
under better surveillapce. Harl. JIS. reads, They bcth i-put al out. &c 

» See ante, p. 223, note l. 

■i Sir. Wright says, 'According to the medijcval legends, Judas wa* 
Christ's purse-bearer, and embezzled a part of the money which wa* 
given to him by his master.' These ' mediieval legends' are obviously 
drawn from tlie gospel of St. John, xii. 6. 

* These are common names for secular clerg)-men. They are called 

VOL. I. 2 A 


Or Jak, or Rauf, or who so that it were. 
That lay by hem, thay told it in his eere. 
Thus was the wenche and he of oon assent. 
And he wold fecche a feyned maundement, 
And sompne hem to chapitre bothe tuo, 
And pyle the man, and let the wenche go. 
Than wold he sayu, ' I schal, frend, for thy sake, 
Don strike the out of oure lettres blake ; 
The thar no more as in this cas travayle; 
I am thy frend ther I the may avayle.' 
Certeynly he knew of bribours mo 
Than possible is to telle in yeres tuo ; 
For in this world nys dogge for the bowe,* 
That can an hurt deei- from an hoi y-knowe, 
Bet than tliis sompnour knew a leccheour, 
Or avoutier, or ellis a paramour; 
And for that was the fruyt of al his rent, 
Therfore theron he set al his entent. 
And so bifel, that oones on a day 
This sompnour, ever wayting on his pray, 
Rod forth to sompne a widew, an old ribibe,* 
Feynyng a cause, for he wolde han a^ bribe. 
And happed that he say bifore him ryde 
A gay yeman under a forest syde; 
A bow he bar, and arwes bright and kene, 
He had upon a courtepy of grene, 
An hat upon his heed, with frenges blake. 
'Sir,' quod this sompnour, 'heyl and wel overtake!' 

sir. not by virtue of tlieir priestly office, but of their degree of B.A. at 
the university ; tliough perhaps the title may afterwards have been 
given to all priests by courtesy. 

' A (log trained for shooting with the bow, part of whose education 
•consisted iu following the stricken deer only, and separating it from 
the herd. 

■-' See (int , p. 198, mite 2. Ribibe is here put metaphorically for an old 
womau, pcTiiaps, as Tyrwhitt supposes, from its shrillness. 
3 Harl. MS. omits hem a.—Vf. 


' Welcome,' quod he, ' and every good felawri; 
Whider ridestow uuder this greae schawe?* 
Sajde this yiman, ' Wiltow for to dayf 
This sompnour ausword, and sayde, ' Nay. 
Her faste by,' quod he, ' is myu euteut 
To ryden, for to reyseu up a rent, 
That lougith to my lordes duete.' 
' Ai-tow than a bayely?' ' Ye,' ' quod he. 
He durste not for verray filth and schaiue 
Sayn that he was a sompnour, for the name.* 

' De imr dleux!^ quod the yeman, 'lieve brother, 
Thou art a bayly, and I am another. 
I am unknoweu, as in this coutre; 
Of thin acqueiutance I wol praye tlie, 
A nd eek of brotherheed, if it yow lest. 
I have gold and silver in my chest j 
If that the happe come into oui'e schire, 
Al sohal be thin, right as thou wolt desire.' 
' Graunt niercy,' quod this sompnoui-, * by my faith !' 
Everich in otheres hond his ti-outhe laitli, 
For to be sworne bretheren' til thay deyen. 
In daliaunce forth thay ride and pleyen. 

This sompnour, which that was as ful of jangles. 
As ful of venym ben tliese weryangles/ 
And ever enqueriug upon every thing, 
' Brother,' quod he, ' wher now is your dwellyng, 
Auotlier day if that I schuld yow seeche?' 
This yiman him answered in softe speche: 
' Brother,' quod he, ' fer in the north contre,' 
Wheras I hope somtyme I schal the se. 

' Harl. MS. omits ye. 

» The friar says, the very name of sompnour bore such a note of 
infamy tliat lie Vivks ashanu-fl to own it. 3 s, c nuti:, p. 124, note i. 

* Apparently, from Spepht's note, the shrike, or butch<:-r hird, whicli 
is very clamorous, and feeds upun small birds, sticking them on a 
thorn, and so tearinjj ttiem to pieces. 

■> The hell of the Teutonic race, before they were Christians, was in 
the north; and after their conversion, as their couverters adopted 

2 A 2 


Er we depai't I schal the so wel wisse, 

That of myn hous ne schaltow never misse.' 

' Now, brothei',' quod this sompuour, ' I yow pray, 

Teche me, whil that we ryden by the way, 

Syn that ye ben a baily as am I, 

Som snbtilte as tel me faithfully 

In myn office how that I may wynne. 

And spare not for consciens or for synne, 

But, as my brother, tel me how do ye.' 

' Now, by my trouthe, brothir myn,' sayd he, 
' As I schal telle the a faithful tale. 
My wages ben ful streyt and eek ful smale; 
My lord to me is hard^ and daungerous. 
And mpi office is ful laborous ; 
And therfor by extorciouns I lyve, 
Forsoth I take al that men wil me give, 
Algate by sleighte or by violence 
Fro yer to yer I wynne my despence ; 
I can no better telle faithfully.' 

' Now certes,' quod this sompnour, ' so fare I ; 
I spare not to take, God it woot, 
But if it be to hevy or to hoot.^ 
What I may gete in counseil prively, " 
No more consciens of that have I. 
Nere myn extorcions,' I might not lyven, 
Ne of such japes I wil not be schriven. 
Stomak ue conscience know I noon ; 
I schrew thes schrifte-fadres everychoon. 
Wel be we met, by God and seint Jame! 
But, leve brother, telle me thy name,' 
Quod this sompnour. In this mene while 
This yeraan gan a litel for to smyle. 

their name, only giving the place a Christian character, u was natural 
that the people should retain their original notion of its position. 

I Harl. MS., streyt. . . 

s Tynvhitt quotes the same expression , from Froissart: ne laissoient 
rien a prendre, s'il n'ctoit trap clmud, trop froid, ou trop pesar^t.' 

3 That is, ' Were it not for my extortions.' 



' Brothir,' quod ho, ' woltow tliat I the telle ? 
I am a feiMid, my dwcllyug is in helle, 
And lier I ryde abo\it my purchasyug, 
To wite wher men wol give nie eny thing. 
My purclias is tht'llt'ct of al my rent.' 
Loke how thou ridest for tlie same entent 
To Wynne good, thou rekkist never liow, 
Kight so fare I, for ryde i woldi; now 
Unto the workles eude for a pray.' 

' A ! ' quod the souipnour, • benedicite^ what ye say ? 
I wende ye were a yeman trewely. 
Ye }uin a niannes schap as wel as T, 
Have ye a figure than determinate* 
In helle, tlier ye ben in your estate?' 
* Nay, certeynly,' quod he, 'ther have we non, 
But whan us likith we can take us on, 
Or ellis make yow seme that we ben schape 
Som tyme like a man, or like an ape; 
Or lik an aungeP can I ryde or go; 
It is no wonder thing though it be so 
A lousy jogelour' can decyve the. 
And, parfay, yit can I more craft than he.' 

* Why,' quod this sompnour, ' ryde ye than or goon 
In sondry wyse, and nought alway in oon?' 

' My whole income is derived from what I can obtain by my trade. 

- Beiicdicitem this iiinl other phices seems to have been colloquially 
contracted somehow thus: Jitn'cite, sls Ood be with you is contracted 
good bye. 

•' The friar represents the sompnour as glad ol' an opportunity ol 
f;aining' informatiim from a spiritual being like Satan on those meta- 
physical qutstioiis so eagerly discussed in the middle agi's, especially 
by the mendicant orders which produced men of unrivalled subtlety 
of the reasoning power. Thomas Aquinas was a Dominican, Duns 
Scotus a Franciscan friar. 

■• 1 Cor. xi. 14. 

5 The minstrels were called also jogeloura, and united with their 
musical entertainments the arts of legerdemain. Thus the minstrel 
Taiilefer accompanied his song of Koland at the battle of Hastintrs 
with tricks of dexterity, which tlie l>eh()lders attributed to encli.Tnt- 
ment. Merlin and Tliomai of ErcelJouu are examples of this strange 
conjunction of characters. 


' For,' quod he, ' we wol us in such forme make. 

As most abiP is oure pray to take.' 

' What makith yow to have al this labour?' 

' Fvil many a cause, lieve sir sompnour,' 

Sayde this feend. ' But al thing hath a tyme; 

The day is schoii;, and it is passed prime, 

And yit ne wan I nothing in this day ; 

I wol entent to Avynnyng, if I may, 

And not entende oure thinges to declare; 

For, brother myn, thy wit is al to bare 

To anderstond, although I told hem the. 

For but thou axid whi laboure we; 

For som tyme we ben Goddis instrumentes, 

And menes to don his comaundementes, 

Whan that him list, upon his creatures, 

In divers act and in divers figures. 

Withouten him we have no might certeyn, 

If that him liste stonde ther agayn. 

And som tyme at our prayer have we leeve, 

Only the body, and not the soule ,greve f 

Witness on Jobe, whom we dide ful wo. 

And som tyme have we might on bothe tuo, 

This is to say of body and soule eeke. 

And som tyme be we suffred for to seeke 

Upon a man, and doon his soule unrest 

And not his body, and al is for the best. 

Whan he withstondith oure temptacioun, 

It is a cause of his savacioun, 

Al be it so it was nought oure entent 

He schuld be sauf, but that M^e wold him hent. 

And som tyme we ben servaunt unto man, 

As to therchebisschop seynt Dunstan,^ 

And to thapostolis, servaunt was I.' ' 

' Yit tel me,' quod the sompnour, * faithfully, 

' Ahil is a French word (luibile, handy, dexterous), and is, therefore, 
accented on the last syllable. - Job ii. 6. 

^ St. Dunstan is &iiid to have reduced the fiend to obedience when 
he came to tempt him as he was working in his forge. 
' Perhaps an allusion to Acts xix. 14. 



Make ye yow uewe bodies ahvay 

Of elementz?' The feud auswerde, 'Nay; 

8oiu tyine we feyne, und soiu tyme we vyae 

With dede bodies,' iu ful wondi'i- wyse, 

And speke reuably, aud as fair and wcl 

As to the Phitonissa dede Samuel;' 

Aud yit wol somuie say, it was not he. 

I do no fors of your divinite. 

But oon thing warns I the, I wol not jape, 

Thou wilt alj:jates wite how we ben schape : 

Thow schalt herafter-ward. my brother fleere, 

Com, wher tlie nedith nothing for to leere, 

For thou schalt by thin oughn experience 

Conne in a chayer^ redeu of this sentence 

Bet than Virgile,* wliils he was on lyve, 

Or Daunt also. Now let us ryde blyve, 

For I wol holde company with the, 

Til it be so that thou forsake me.' 

'Nay,' quod the sompnour, 'that sclial nought betyde. 

I am a yimau that knowen is ful wyde; 

My trouthe wol I holde, as in this caas. 

For though thou be the devyl Sathanas, 

' Tlie prevailing beliff that the P^vil Spirit sometimes appeared in 
the form of the doparteii is ilhistrated by llamkVs doubts respecting 
his father's appearance, act ii. scene z : — 

' The spirit that I liave seen 
>ray be a devil ; and the devil Latli power 
To a.«.fHirie a pleasing shape.' 

2 It was generally believed by theologians that the Witch of Endor 
could not really recal Samuel from the grave, but that the Evil Spirit 
appeared in his form, in order t<j give credit to the idolatry ami witch- 
craft by which Saul and the Israelites were seduced from the worship 
of the true God. She is here called Phitonissd, because Python, or 
.\pollo, was the God of rroplu-cy. Thus, in the Acts, xvi. i6, the 
words translated in our version — a spiiit of Dicination, are, in the 
original, nrev/io Ilvdui-ot. 

:t That is, you shall hereafter understand this subject so well that 
von will be competent to give lectures on it, as a professor in his 

• .\lluding to the visit of Mneaa to the infernal regions, in the si.\th 
book of the .i:ii£u/, and to Dante's Inferno. 


My troutlie wol I holde to the, my brother, 

As I am swore, and ech of us to other, 

For to be trewe brethereu in this caas; 

For bothe we goon abouten onre purchas. 

Tak thou thi part, and that men wil the gyven, 

And I schal myn, thus may we bothe lyven. 

And if eny of us have more than other, 

Let him be trewe, and part it with his brotlier.* 

' I graunte,' quod the devel, ' by my fay !' 

And with that word thay riden forth her way; 

And right at thentryng of a townes ende, 

To which this sompnour schope him for to wende^ 

Thay seigh a cart, that chargid was with hay, 

Which that a cai-ter drof forth iu his way. 

Deep was the way, for which the carte stood ; 

This carter smoot, and cryde as he wer wood, 

*Hayt, brok; hayt, scot;^ what spare ye for the 

The fend,' quod he, ' yow fech body and bonesj 
As fei-forthly as ever wer ye folid ! 
So moche wo as I have with yow tholid ! 
The devyl have al, bothe cart and hors and hay !' 
This somjinour sayde, ' Her schal we se play.' 
And ner the feend he drough, as nought ne wei'e, 
Ful prively, and rouned in his eere, 
' Herke, my brother, hai-ke, by thi faith ! 
Ne herest nought thoii what the carter saith? 
Hent it anoon, for he hath given it the, 
Bothe hay and caples, and eek his cart, parde!' 

' Nay,' quod the devyl, ' God wot, never a del. 
It is nought his entente, trustith wel, 
Ask it thiself, if thou not trowist me, 
Or ellis stint a while and thou schalt se.' 

' Hayt is still the word used by wag^goners in Norfolk to make their 
horses go on. lirnk (brock) means a badger ; hence applied to a grey iiorse, 
afterwards called by the carter ' myn oughne hjard (grey) boy ! Scot is 
a common name for farm horses in East Anglia. The Hceve's horse (see 
Pi-oUmii-') is cHlled Scot. The llarl. MS. reads slot (stallion); but Scot 
(adopted Ui/m. Tyrwhitt), being a proper name, seems the true reading. 


This carter thakketli his hore upon tlie croupe, 
And thay l»ygon to (h'awen and to stowjie. 
'Hayt now,' qtuxl Ii.-, ' ther Jhesu Crist yow bleise, 
And al his houdwerk, bothe more and lesse! 
Tliat was wel twij^ht, myn oughne lyard boy, 
I pray God save thy body and seint Loy!' 
Now is my cart out of the sloo parde !' 
' Lo! brotlier,' quod the feeud, ' what tokl T the? 
Her may ye seen, myn owne deere brother, 
The cax-ter spak oou thing, and thought another. 
Let us go forth abouten our viage ; 
Hier wynne 1 nothing upon cariage.' 

Whan that thay comen somwhat out of tonne, 
This sompuour to liis brothir gan to rouur • 
' Brotliir.' quod he, ' her wonyth an oM rebekke, 
That had almost as lief to leese hir necke, 
As for to give a peny of hir good. 
I wol han twelf ])ens" though that sche go Avood, 
Or I "wol somone hir to oure office; 
And yit, God wot, I know of hir no vice. 
But for thou canst not, as in this contre, 
Wynne thy cost, tak her ensample of me.' 
This sompnour clapped at the widowes gate; 
' Com out,' quod he, ' thou olde viritrate ; 
I trowe thou som frere or prest with the.' 
' Who clappith ther?' sayd this widow, ' benedicile 
God sfive yow, sir! what is your swete wille?' 
' I have,' quod he, ' a somouaunce of a bille. 

' Thus the Book of Homilies, in enumerating the different forms of 
invoking the saints, gives, as an example, "to the horse, God and S.iint 
Ley save thee.' This is probably a contraction for Kligius, who w;is 
()ri;;in;illy a worker In mi't.ils. fSt. Ley, Eloy, or Kli;.Mii*, wiis, in f;ict. the 
patrol! saint of smi/'ij. ('liainlx'rs. /I<xih nf lia'is. i\. :\n\i. W'.W'.S.'] 

* Harl. MS., by a curious contraction, reads irolj, for im! Jinn 
twclj. — W. The value ol the twelve pence for which the soiupnoiir 
sued the widow may be estimati-d by tlie relative jirices of food and 
labour. For twelve pence the wiilow might have purchased two dozen 
of liens, or three gallons of red wine, or hired a dozen common labourem 
for twelve days. See vol. i., p. 33, note i . 


Up payne of ci;rs)Tig/ loke that thou be 

To morwe biforn our erchedeknes kne, 

To answer to the court of certeyn thinges.' 

' Now,' quod sche, ' Jhesu Crist, and king of kinges, 

So wisly helpe me, as I ne may. 

I have hen seek, and that ful many a day. 

I may not goon so fer,' quod sche, ' ne ryde, 

But I he deed, so prikith it in my syde. 

May I nat aske a lybel,'' sir sompnour, 

And answer ther by my procuratour 

To suche thing as men wol oppose me?' 

' Yis,' quod tliis sompnour, ' pay anoon, let se, 

Twelf pens^ to me, and T the wil acquite. 

I schal no profyt have therby but lite ; 

INIy mayster hath the profyt and not I. 

Com of, and let me ryden hastily ; 

Gif me my twelf pens, I may no lenger tary.' 

' Twelf pensf quod sche, 'now lady seinte Mary 

So wysly help me out of care and synne, 

This wjde world though that I schulde v/ynne, 

Ne have I not twelf pens withinne myn hold. 

Ye knowen wel that I am pore and old ; 

Kithe yoiire almes on me pore wrecche.' 

' Nay than,' quod he, ' the foule fend me fecche! 

If I thexcuse, though thou schalt be spilt.' 

'Alias!' quod sche, 'God wot, I have no gilt.' 

' Pay me,' quod he, 'or by the swet seint Anne! 

As I wol here away thy newe panne 

For dette, which thou owest me of old, 

Whan that thou madest thin housbond cokewold, 

1 payd at hom for thy correccioun.' 

• Thou lixt,' quod sche, ' by my savaciouu, 

Ne was I never er now, wydow ne wyf, 

Somound unto your court in al my lyf ; 

• On pain of exconimunication. 
- A copy of the information or indictment. A libel is still the ex- 
pression in tlie ecclesiastical courts. 

^ See ante, p. j6i, note 2. 


N(" never I was hut of my body trewe. 
Unto the flevel rough and l)lak of hiewe 
Give I thy hody and tho jtanne also!' 
And whan the dovyl herd hit- curse so 
Upon liir knees, he sayd in this manere: 
' Now, Mabely, myn owne modir deere, 
Is this your wil in emest that ye seyeT 
' The devel,' (juod sche, ' fecche liim er he deye, 
And panne and al, but he wol him repente !' 

' Nay, olde stot, that is not myn entente/ 
Quod this sompnour, ' for to ropt'nte me 
For eny thing that I have had of the ; 
I wohl I had tliy smok and every chjth.' 

* Now brotliir,' quod the devyl, ' be not wroth ; 
Thy body and this panne is myn by riglit.' 
Thow schalt with me to helle yit to night, 
Wlier thou schalt kuowen of our privete 
More than a maister of divinite.' 

And with that word the foule fend him hente; 
Body and soide, he with the devyl wente, 
Wher as the sompnours han her heritage; 
And God tliat maked after his ymage 
Mankynde, save and gyde us alle and some, 
And leeve this sompnour good man to bycomo. 

' Lordyngs, I couth han told yow,' quod the frere, 
' Had I had Icysir for this sompnour here, 
After the text of Crist, and Powel, and Jon, 
And of oui'e other doctoiire many oon, 
Such peynes that our hex-te might agi-ise, 
Al be it so, no tonge may devyse, 
Though that I miL(lit a thousand Avynter telle, 
The l»oyn of thilke cursed hous of lielle. 
But for to kepe us from that cursed place, 
WaJcith, and prayeth Jhesu for his grace, 

' The widow's curse, being uttered from her heart, Rives the Devi! 
a rijrht to carry away the sompnour. Tills condition, whicli ajirees 
exactly with the Latin story published by Mr. Wright in the .trrii/ro- 
tiMfia, did not apply to the curse of the carter, who ' spak oou thing, 
and thought another.' 


So kepe us fro the temptour Sathauas. 
Herknith this word, beth war as iu this cas. 
The lyoun syt in his awayt alway^ 
To slen the innocent, if that he ma5^ 
Dispositli yoiire hertes to withstonde 
The fend, that wolde make yow thral and bonde ; 
He may not tempte yow over your might/ 
For Crist wol be your champioun and kniglit ; 
And prayeth, that oure Sompnour him repente 
Of his raysdede, er that the fend him hente.' 


T^HTS Sompnour in his styrop up he stood, 

J- Upon the Frere his herte was so wood, 

That lyk an aspen leef he quok for ire. 

' Lordyngs,' quod he, ' but oon thing I desire ; 

I yow biseke, that of your curtesye, 

Syn ye han herd tliis false Frere ]ye, 

As suffrith me I may my tale telle. 

This Frei-e bosteth that he knowith helle, 

And, God it wot, that is litil wonder, 

Fj-eres and feendes been but litel asonder. 

For, pardy, ye han often tyme herd telle, 

How that a frere i^avyscht was to helle* 

In spirit ones by a visioun, 

And as an aungel lad him up and doun, 

To schewen him the peynes that ther were, 

In al the place saugh he not a frere. 

Of other folk he saugh y-nowe in wo. 

Unto this aungel spak this frere tho : 

1 Psalm X. 9. ' i Cor. x. i 3. 

3 A favourite mode of awakeninp the careless in the middle ayes. 
Rede relates a story of a monk tlius favoured with a /rlinipse of tlie otlier 
world, upon wliom it made such an impression that he never after was 
teen to smile. The idea is probably derived from the descent, in the 
Odyssey and JEneid, of Ulysses and .^neag into the infernal regions. 


' Now, sire,' quud lie, ' liau freres such a jjrace, 

That noon of hem schal comen in tliis place?' 

' Yis,' quod tliis aungil, 'many a inylioun.' 

And unto Satlianas lie lad him duuii. 

' And now hath Sathanas,' saith he, ' a tayl 

Broder than of a carrik is the sayl.' 

' Hold up thy tayl, thou Sathanas,' quod he, 

' Schew foi-th thyn crs, and let the frex'e se 

Whei- is the nest of fi-eros in this place.' 

And er than half a forlong way of space, 

Right so as bees swarmen out ol" an hyvo, 

Out of the develes ers thay gonne dryve, 

Twenty thou.sand freres on a route, 

And thorughout hellc swarmed al aboute, 

And comen agen, as fast as thay may goon, 

And in his ers thay crepcn evei'ichoon. 

He clappid his tayl agayn, and lay ful stille. 

This frere, whan he loked had his fille 

Upon the torment of this sory place, 

His spirit God restored of his grace 

Unto his body agayu, and he awook ; 

But natheles for fere yit he quook, 

So was the develes ers yit in his mynde, 

That is his lieritage of verray kynde. 

God save yow alle, save this cursed Frere; 

My proloug wol I ende in this manere.' 


LORUYNGS, ther is in En^'-'lond, I ge^se, 
A mersschly lond called Huldernesse,^ 
In which ther went a lymytour aboute 
To preche,'' and eek to begge, it is no doubte. 

• A district on the coast of Yorksliire. 
- Tho object of St. Francis of Assissi and .St. Dominic, tlie founders 
of the mendicant orders, was to supply tlie want of popular preacliinfj 
and active zeal, to which the paruoliial and older monastic systemt 


And SO bifel it on a day this frere 
Had preched at a chirch in tliis manere, 
And specially aboven evei"' thing 
Excited he the poepul in his preching 
To trentals/ and to give for Goddis sake, 
Wherwith men mighten holy houses make, 
Ther as divine servys is honoured, 
Nought ther as it is wasted and devoured ; 
Neither it needeth not for to be give 
As to possessioneres,^ that mow lyve, 
Thanked be God, in wele and abundaunce. 
' Trentals,' sayd he, ' delyvereth fro penaunce 
Her frendes soules, as wel eld as yonge, 
Ye, whanne that thay hastily ben songe, 
Nought for to hold a prest jolif and gay, 
He syngith not but oon masse in a day. 
Delyverith out,' quod he, ' anoon^ the soules. 
Ful hard it is, with fleischhok or with oules 
To ben y-clawed, or brend, or i-bake ; * 
Now speed yow hastily for Cristes sake.' 

were not, as they supposed, practically conducive. They proposed to 
attain this object by raising up a class of men wlio should be unshackled 
by worldly possessions or hopes of preferment, and who, by their edu- 
cation, should be enabled to satisfy the awakening thirst for knowledge 
among the people. The friars, therefore, as indicated in the text, 
were the popular preachers of the middle ages ; and there can be no 
doubt that the general diffusion of a knowledge of Scripture, and the 
discussion of religious subjects by the lower classes, to wliich their 
preachings gave rise, prepared the popular mind for forming a decision 
respecting those metaphysical questions upon which the Reformation 
was ostensibly founded. 

1 Thirty masses celebrated for the benefit of souls in purgatory. 

^ The friar invidiously calls the monks, who could possess property 
in common, and tlie parochial clergy, who of course possessed it as 
laymen d\d, possexsioiiers. The friars, by their rule, were obliged to 
beg their bread, but so irrational a rule was, as might be expected, 
Eoon evaded. s Harl. JIS. omits atioon. 

* Tlie popular preachers and painters of the middle ages u.sed to re- 
liresent the punishments of sin as consisting of a literal tearing, burn- 
ing, and freezing of the flesh, intcndingthem to be understood metaphori- 
cally ; but the unlearned of course applied these representations in a 
literal sense. In Albert DUrer'a ' IJer Kleiue Passion' is a very 
curious example. 


Ami whan this frere had sayd al liis cntent, 
With qui cum patre,^ fortli his way he went. 
Whan folk in chirch hatl give him what hem lost, 
He went his way, no leuger wold he rest. 
With scrip and pyked staf, y-touked hye; 
In every hous he gan to pore and prye. 
And beggyd mele or chese, or el lis corn. 
His felaw had a staf typped witii liorn, 
A payr of tablis al of yvory,^ 
And a poyntcl y-])olisclit fetisly. 
And wroot the names alway as he stood 
Of alle folk that gaf him eny good, 
Ascaunce that he wolde for hem preye. 
' Gif us a biisshel whet, or malt, or reye, 
A Goddes kichil,* or a trij) of chese, 
Or elles what yow list, we may not chese; 
A Godiles halpeny, or a masse peny;* 
Or gif us of yuure brauiie, if ye have eny, 
A dagoun of your blanket, leeve dame, 
Oure suster deer, — lo! her I write your name — 
Bacouu or beef, or such thing as we fynde.' 
A stourdy harlot ay went hem byhyude. 

' This is part of tlie formula with w)iicli prayers and sermons are 
Ftill sometimes coiiehulod in the Cliurch of Kii<;lan(l. 

■•' Thus Jacke Upland asks the supposed friar, ' Wliy writest tliou 
her names in tliy tables tliat ycveth thee mony ? sith (iod kiioweth al 
thing: for itsemeth by tliy writing, tliat (iod would not reward liem ; 
but tliou writest in tliy tables, Go<l would els forgotten it.' I'he 
meaning of recording the names, however, was that they might be 
remembered in the i)r.iyers of the brothcrhnod. 

3 Tyrwhitt, after showing the absurdity of Speght's interpretation 
of tlihs expression, says that it is common in French, and that tlie 
meaning is explained by JI. de laMonnoye,in a note upon the Coittestle 
B. D.Pvricrs, torn. ii.,p. 107 : — • Uien n'est jiluscoinniun i\tu\ii la bouche 
des bonnes vieilles, que ces especes d'llebraisines; • II in'en coiite un bel 
ecu de Dieu ; il ne me reste que ce pauvre enfant de Dieu ; donnez-moi 
une benitc aumone de Dieu." 

* A masse pi III/ is jirobably a penny for saying a Thus, 
.larke l' plana : — ' Freer, when thou a penie for to say a 
masse, whether selle^t thou God's boJie ?" &c. He might as well have 
said that St. I'liul sold the Gospel because he sometimes accepted pecu- 
niary aid from his eonverts. 


That was her hostis^ man, and bar a sak, 

And wliat men gaf hem, layd it on his bak. 

And whan that he was out atte dore. anoon 

He planed out the names everychoon, 

That he biforn had writen in his tablis ; 

He served hem with nyties and with fablis. [Frere. 

' Nay, ther thou lixt," thou Sompnour,' sayd the 
* Pees,' quod our host, ' for Cristes moder deere, 
Tel forth thy tale, and spare it not at al.' 
' So thrive I,' quod the Sompnour, ' so I schal !* 

So long he wente hous by hous, til he 
Cam til an hous, ther he was wont to be 
Refresshid mor than in an hundrid placis. 
Syk lay the housbond man, whos that the place is, 
Bedred upon a couche lowe he lay. 
' Deits hie,' ^ quod he, ' O Thomas, frend, good day !' 
Sayde this frere al curteysly and softe. 
' O Thomas, God yeld it yow, ful ofte 
Have I upon this bench i-fare ful wel, 
Her have I eten many a mery mel.' 
And fro the bench he drof away the cat,* 
And layd adoun his potent and his hat. 
And eek his scrip, and set him soft adoun ; 
His felaw was go walkid in the toun 
Forth with his knave, into the ostelrye, 
Wher as he schop him thilke night to lye. 

' In all religious houses there was an officer specially appointed to 
wait on the guests, called here the ' hostisman,' or guests' man, Aos<, 
like the Latin hospcs, meaning both host and guest. 

- The friar's vehement denial is admirably managed. The general 
resemblance of the sompnour's picture is so perfect, that even he is 
carried away by its spirit, and believes it real; but he thinks he can 
at least dispute the trifling circumstance of the blotting out of the 

■■< God be here, apparently a form of benediction. It is a common 
plirase amongst the peasantry in Ireland and Brittany to say, on 
entering a house, ' God save all here.' 

< It is by this sort of by-play that Chaucer gives such a marvellous 
reality to his scenes, lie does not say that the friar made himself 
quite at home, but he makes you see it with your eyes. 



* deerc maistcr,' quod tlie soeke man, 
'How have yt- lUrr sitlitln- IMmicIi Iiv.lmu? 
I saygh yow iioui,'lit this louiti'iiij^lit or more,* 

' God wot,' quod he, ' labord have I ful sore; 
And specially tor tliy salvacioun 
Have I sayd many a precious orisouu, 
And for niyn otlier frendes, God hem blesse. 
I have to day ben at your chirche at messe, 
And sayd a sermoun after my simple wit, 
Nouglit al after the text of holy wryt. 
For it is hai-d for yow, as I suppose, 
And therfor wil I teche yow ay the glose. 
Glosjnig is a ful glorious thing ceitayn, 
For letter sleth,* so as we clerkes sayu. 
Ther have I tauglit hem to be charitable, 
And spend her good ther it is resonablej 
And ther I seigh our dame, wher is she?' 
' Yond in the yerd I trowe that sche be,' 
Sayde tliis man, ' and sche wil come anoon.' 

' Ey, mayster, welcome be ye, by seint Johan T 
Sayde this wyf, ' how fare ye hertily T 

The frere arisetli up ful curteysly, 
And her embracith'' in liis armes narwe, 
And kist hir swcte, and chirkith as a sparwe 
With his lippes: 'Dame,' quod he, 'right wel, 
As lie tliat is your servaunt everydel. 
Tliunkyd be God, that yow gaf soule and lif, 
Yit saugh I not this day so fair a wyf 
In al the cliirche, God so save me.' 

' Ye. God amend defautes,' sir,' quod sche, 
' Algates welcome be ye, by my fay.' 
' Graunt nieraj, dame ; this have 1 found alway. 

' 1 Cor. iii. 6. 

' Kissinp was form.^rly the ordinary mode of salutation, as it still ii 
1b some part' of the continent. 

3 A .sort of nioclcst <li.-<(iwtlifiiiiiij of lierself, as niucli as to say,  I 
know I have niauy faults, but may God amend them.' 

VOL. I. 

2 B 


But of your grete gooclnes, by youre leve, 
I wolde pray yow that ye yow not greeve, 
I wil with Tliomas speke a litel thro we ; 
These curates^ ben ful negligent and slowe 
To grope tendurly a conscience. 
In schrift and preching" is my diUgence, 
And study in Petres wordes and in Poules, 
I walk and fissche'^ Cristen mennes soules, 
To yelde J hesu Crist his propre rent ; 
To spred-en his word is al myn eutent.' 

' Now, by your leve, o deere sir,' quod sche, 
' Chyd him right wel for seinte Trinite.* 
He is as angry as a pissemyre, 
Though that he have al that he can desire. 
Though I him wrye on night, and make him warm, 
And over him lay my leg other myn arm, 
He groneth lik our boor, that lith in sty. 
Othir disport of him right noon have I, 

1 may please him in no maner caas.' 

' O Thomas, jeo vous dy, Thomas, Thomas, 
This makth the feend, this moste ben amendid. 
Ire is a thing that highe God defendid, 
And therof wold I speke a word or tuo.' 

' Now, maister,' quod the wyf, ' er that I go, 
What wil ye dine? I will go theraboute.' 
' ISTow, dame,' quod he, 'jeo vous dy saunz doufe, 
Have I not of a capoun but the lyvere. 
And of your softe brede but a schivere, 

' The seonlar or pavocliial clergy, who had aure (cura) of souls, 
wliich the religious orders could not properly be said to have, because 
their jurisdiction was not confined to tlie ordinary limits, but ex- 
tended, like that of a missionary, to wliomsoever they could persuade. 

2 The friars, like tlie modern Jesuits, turned their attention par- 
ticularly to the popular parts of theology, preaching, and the direction 
of consciences. 

•'• Luke V. 10. 

* Saint means properly hoh/, and so is applied to the Trinity, the 
Saviour, cliarity, &c , as "well as to Christian men and women. Seinte 
is the feminine form of the adjective, to agree with Trinite, a feminine 
noun in Lutiu and French. 


And after tliat a rostyd pigges heed, 
(But that I wold for me no best wore deed') 
Than had I with yow lionily suffisaunce. 
I am a man of litel sustiuiuiuoe. 
My spirit hath his fostryng on the Bible. 
The body is ay so redy and so jienyble 
To wake, that my stoiuak is destroyed. 
I pray yow, dame, that ye be not anoyetl, 
For I so frondly yow my conu.seil schewe; 
By Godl I nold not telle it but a fewe.' 

' Now, sii',' quod sche, ' but o word er I go. 
My child is deed withinne this wykes tuo, 
Soon after that ye went out of tliis touu.' 

' His deth saugh I by revelaciuuu,' 
Sayde this frere, ' at hoom in oure dortour. 
I dar wel .sayn, er that half an hour 
After his deth, I seigh him boru to 
In myu a\'ysioun, so God me wisse. 
So did our sextein, and our fermerere,^ 
That han ben trewe freres fift^y yere ; 
Thay may now, God be thanked of his lone, 
Maken her jubile,^ and walk alloone. 
And up I roos. and al our covent eeke, 
With many a teere trilling on my cheeke, 
7'e Deum* was our song, and nothing ellis, 
Withouten noys or claterying of bellis, 

1 This is perhaps in imitation of his founder, St. Francis, wliore 
charity overtlowcd even upon the lower animals, whom he called liis 
brothers and bi.-lers, insomuch tliat he could not be prevailed upon to 
remove certain of them which found shelter in the folds of his am))le 

- The officer who had clinrpe of the farms or pranpos. In Jacke 
Upland is exposed tlie sophi>lry by which the friars i-ndeavoured to 
reconcile the po.s.-ession of fiu iiis with their ' rule.' 

■' I'eeuliar lionour.* and iirivilcges were granted by the rule of St. 
Kenedict to those monks who had livid lifty years in the order, and 
who were then sai<l to liave lini-lied their jubilee. One of these pri- 
vileges was that of walkinp altme, wliich, for obvious reasons, was Ibr- 
bidden to the other relipiou~. So in .lackeVplnnd .■^' What betokei.eth 
that ye poe tweim- and tweme together?* 

■• Nothing but a thanksgiving would have been appropriate for » 

2 B 2 


Save that to Crist I sayd an orisoun, 
Thaiikyng him of my revelacionn. 
For, sire and dame, trustith me right wel, 
Our orisouns ben more eflectuel. 
And more we se of Goddis secre thinges, 
Than borel folk, although that thay ben kinges. 
We lyve in povert and in abstinence, 
And borel folk in riches and dispence 
Of mete and drink, and in her ful delyt. 
We han all this worldes lust al in despyt.* 
Lazar and Dives lyveden diversely, 
And divers guerdoun hadde thay thereby. 
Who so wol praye, he must faste,^ and be clene, 
And fatte his soule, and make his body lene. 
We faren, as saith thapostil;^ cloth and foode 
Sufficeth us, though that thay ben not goode. 
The cleunes and the fastyng of us freres 
Makith that Crist acceptith oure prayeres. 
Lo, Moyses fourty dayes and fourty night 
Fasted,^ er that the highe God of might 
Spak with him in the mount of Synay ; 
With empty wombe fastyng many a day, 
Receyved he the lawe, that was writen 
With Goddis fynger; and Eli,* wel ye witen, 
In mount Oreb, er he had any speche 
With highe God, that is oure lyves leche. 
He fastid, and was in contemplacioun. 
Aron, that had the temple in governacioun, 
And eek the other prestes^ every choon. 
Into the temple whan thay schulden goon 
To preye for the poeple, and doon servise, 
Thay nolden drinken in no maner wise 

child dying in infancy, of whose translation to paradise tlie friar also 

pretends that he had had a vision. 

1 Harl. U^.delit. ^ Harl. JIS. omits he must 

3 I 8. * Exod. xxxiv. i8. 

5 I Kings xix. 8. ' Levit. x. 9 



No (li-yiike, which that (h-oiike mi^ht liem make, 

But tlier in abstinence jirey and wake, 

Lest that thay dediu ; tak heed what 1 say — 

But thay ben sobre' that for tlie pepul pray — 

War that I say — no mor; for it suthsith. 

Oure Lord Jhesu, as oure lore devysith, 

Gaf us ensanipil of fastyng and prayoresj 

Therfore we mendiuauntz, we scly freres, 

Ben wedded to povert and to continence, 

To charite, humblesse, and abstinence, 

To persecucioun for rightwisnesse, 

To wepyng, misericord, and clennesse. 

And therfor may ye seen that oure prayeres 

(I speke of us, we mendeauuts, we freres) 

I3en to the hihe God more acceptable 

Than youres, with your festis at your table. 

Fro Paradis first, if I schal not lye, 

Was man out chaced for his glotonye, 

And chast was man in Paradis certeyn. 

But now herk, Thomas, what I schal the seyn, 

I ne have no tixt of it, as I suppose, 

But I schal fyud it in a maner glose ; 

That specially our swete Lord Jhesus 

Spak tliis by freres, whan he s;i}do thus, 

Blessed be thay that pover in spirit ben.' 

And so forth in the gospel ye may seen, 

Whether it be likir oure professioun, 

Or heris that swymmen in possessioun. 

Fy on her pomj), and on her glotenye. 

And on her lewydnesse ! I hem defye. 

]\Ie thinkith thay ben lik Jovynian,* 

Fat as a whal, and walken as a swan; 

Al vinolent as hotel in the spence.* 

Her pi'ayer is of ful gret revx'rence ; 

' An insinuation tliuttlieparocliial clergy did not lead very sober lives. 

2 Matt.v. 3. 

3 Trubably the fabiiloug Emperor of Rome in one of the Gesta Jioma- 
norum. * As full of wine as a bottle in the cellar or buttery. 


Whan tliav for soules sayn the Psalm of David, 

Lo, boef thay say, Cor meum eructavit} 

Who fohvith Cristes gospel and his lore 

But "wp., tliat humble ben, and ehast, and pore, 

Workers of Goddes word, not auditours?" 

Therfbr right as an hauk upon a sours ^ 

Upspringeth into thaer, right so prayeres 

Of charitabil and chaste busy freres 

INTaken her soui-s to Goddis eeres tuo. 

Thomas, Thomas, so mote I ryde or go. 

And by that Lord that clepid is seint Ive,* 

Ner thou oure brother, schuldestow never thrive. 

In oure chapitre pray we day and night 

To Crist, that he the sende hele and might 

Thy body for to welden hastily.' 

' God wot,' quod he, ' therof nought feele I, 
As help me Crist, as I in fewe yeeres 
Have spendid upon many divers freres 
Ful many a pound, yit fax*e I never the bet; 
Certeyn my good have I almost byset. 
Farwel my gold, for it is almost ago.' 
The frere answerd, ' Thomas, dostow sol 
What needith yow dyveree freres seche? 
What needith him that hath a parfyt leche 
To sechen othir leches in the toun? 
Youre inconstance is youre confusioun. 
Holde ye than me, or elles ovire covent. 
To praye for yow insufficient "? 
Thomas, that jape is not worth a myte ; 
Youre malady is for we have to lite. 
A ! give that covent half a quarter otes; 
A! give that covent four and twenty grotes; 

• The forty fifth Psalm in the Vulgate begins Entctavit cormeum ; 
and the pun is on the word eructiuit. Tltr ijriosts aro mid to say ' for 
soiik'.s' because it is one of the psahns in tlie Ollichuti (Ujiinctorutn. 

- Jatnes i. ;i. 

•> Like a falcon soaring, wliich she always docs before swooping 
down upon her prey. 

* St. Ive was an exemplary priest of Lantriguier, in Brctagnc. 


A! give tliJit fivre a pony, ami let liiin gO', 

Nay, nay, Tlioiuas, it may nought he so. 

What is a ferthing worth (h>part in tuelve? 

Lo, ech thing that is ooned in hiniselve 

Is more strong than whan it is to-skatrid. 

Tliomas, of nie thou sclialt not ben y-tlatrid, 

Thow woldist have our labour al for nought. 

The hihe God, that al this world hath wiought 

Saith, that the werkinau is worthy of his hyre.* 

Thomas, nought of your tresor 1 desire 

As for myself, but for that oure covent 

To pray for yow is ay so diligent ; 

And for to buylden Cristes holy chirche. 

Thomas, if ye wil lerne for to wirche, 

Of buyldyng up on chirches may ye fynde 

If it be good, in Thomas lyf of Ynde.' 

Ye lye her ful of anger and of ire, 

With which the devel set your hert on fuyre, 

And chyden her the holy innocent 

Your wj'f, that is so mi^ke and pacient. 

And therfor trow me, Thomas, if thou list, 

Ne stryve nought with thy wyf, as for tin best. 

And ber this word away now by thy faith, 

Touchinge such thing, lo, the wise man saith, 

Withinne thin hous be thou no lyoun;' 

To thy subjects do noon oppressioun; 

Ne make thyn acqueyutis fro the fle. 

And yit, Thomas, eftsons I charge the, 

' Luke X. 7. 

' Ecclesiastical history says that the Apostle Thomas was the evan- 
eelist of the Imlies, iiud recommended himself to a sovereign o( that 
country by his skill in hnildinj;. This is conllrnied by the tradition 
preserved amonR the native Christians whom the early European 
settlers found in the country, and who are called tlie Christians of St. 
Thomas to this day ; and alM) by the extraordinary similarity between 
some of tlie doctrines and forms o{ Hindooism and liiuUlhism and 
those of Christianity, which would lead one to suppose that the latter 
had at some time been received at least in conjanction with an old 
iiiolatry. * Ecclua. iv. 3o. 

376 'ihh CA^'lERB'JRY TALES. 

Be war for ire that in thy bosom slepitb. 

War for the serpent, that so slely crepith 

Under the gras, and styngith prively ; 

Be war, my sone, and werk paciently, 

For twenty thousand men han lost her lyves 

For stryvyng with her lemmans and her wyves. 

Now syns ye han so holy and meeke a wif, 

What nedith yow, Thomas, to make strif ? 

Ther nys, I wis, no serpent so cruel. 

When men trede on his tail, ne half so fel, 

As womman is, when sche hath caught an ire; 

Vengeans is thanne al that thay desire. 

Schortly may no man, by rym and vers, 

Tellen her thoughtes, thay ben so dyvere. 

Ire is a sinne, oon the grete of sevene/ 

Abhominable to the God of hevene, 

And to himself it is destruccioun. 

This eveiy lewed vicory or parsoun' 

Can say, how ire engendrith homicide; 

Ire is in soth executour of pride. 

I couthe of ire seyn so moche sorwe, 

My tale schulde laste til to morwe. 

Ire is the grate of synne, as saith the wise,' 

To fle therfro ech man schuld him devyse. 

And therfor pray I God bothe day and night, 

An irons man God send him litil might. 

It is greet harm, and also great pite, 

To set an irons man in hisch desre. 

' One of the greatest of the seven deadly sins. 

- The friar characteristically calls the parson and vicar letrd, that 
is, unlearned. The parson is properly the parish pi-kst, or rector ; the 
mcar a substitute appointed by the religious house to « liich the grout 
tithes were sometimes granted, on condition that they provided tor the 
cure of souls in the parish. At the dissolution of the aljbeys, these 
great tithes were given, or played away at dice, to laynieii by Henry 
VIII., and are now still held by laymen, who, like the old monasteries, 
give the small tithes to the vicar or substitute. 

^ This apparently ought to be the gate, meaning flood-gate, oi' sin. 
Tlie allusion will be to Trov. xvii. 14. 


* Whilom ther was an irons potestate, 
As seith Seuek,' that duryng liis estaat 
Ujwn a day out rideu knightes tiio; 
And, as furtuiie wokle right as it were so, 
That ooii of hem cam home, that other nought. 
Anoon the kniglit bifore the juge is brought, 
Tliat sixyde thus, Thou hast thy felaw slayu, 
For which I dome the to deth certayn 
And to anothir knight comaundid he, 
Go, lede him to the deth, I charge the. 
And liapjied, as thay wente by the weye 
Toward the j)lace ther he schulde deye, 
The knight com, which men wend hadde be deed. 
Than thoughten thay it were the beste reed 
To lede hem bothe to the juge agajTi. 
Thay sayden, Lord, the knight hath not slayn 
His felaw; lo, heer he stont hool on lyve. 
Ye schal be deed, quod he, so mote I thrive! 
That is to sayn, bothe oon, tuo, and thre. 
And to the firste kuyght right thus spak he ; 
I deme the, thou most algate be deed. 
Thau thoughte thay it were the beste rede, 
To lede him forth into a fair mede. 
And, quod the juge, also thou most lese thin heed, 
For thou art cause why thy felaw deyth. 
And to the thridde felaw thus he seith ; 
Thou hast nought doon that I comaundid the. 
And thus he let don sle hem alle thre. 
Irons Cambises was eek dronkelewe. 
And ay delited him to ben a schrewe; 
And so bifel, a lord of his meigne, 
That loved vertues. and eek moi-alite, 
Sayd on a day i»itwix hem tuo I'ight thus, 
A lord is lost, if he be vicious; 

' I'liis and the following story of Cambyses a»? told by Seneca, D* 
Ira, lib. i. c. xvi. — T. 


An irous mau is lik a frentik best, 

In which ther is of wisdom noon arrest; 

And dronkeues is eek a foul record 

Of any mau, and namly of a lord. 

Ther is ful many an eyghe and many an eere 

Awaytand on a lord, and he not where. 

For Goddes love, dryuk more attemperelly : 

Wyn makith man to lese wrecchedly 

His mynde, and eek his lymes everichoon. 

The revers schaltow seen, quod he, auoon, 

And prove it by thin owne experience. 

That wyn ne doth to folk non such olfonce. 

Ther is no won byreveth me my might 

Of bond, of foot, ne of myn eyghe sight. 

And for despyt he dronke moche more 

An hundrid part than he had doon byfore ; 

And right anoon, this irous cursid wrecche 

Let this knightes sone anoon biforn him fecche, 

Comaunrlyng hem thay schuld biforn him stonde; 

And sodeinly he took his bowe on honde, 

And up the streng he pulled to his eere, 

And with an arwe he slough the child right there. 

Now whethir have I a sikur bond or noon] 

Quod he. Is al my mynde and might agoon? 

Hath wyn byrevyd me myn eye sight 1 

What schidd I telle the answer of the knight? 

His sone was slayn, ther is no more to say. 

Be war therfor with lordes how ye play, 

Syngith Flacebo,"- and I schal if I can. 

But if it be unto a pore man ; 

To a pore man men schuld his vices telle, 

But not to a lord, they he schuld go to belle. 

1 Placebo Domino, in regione vivorum is the rendering in the Vulgate 
of that passage which, in the authorized version, is translated ' I will 
walk before the Lord in the land of the living.' It was familiar to 
everyone in Chaucer's time, as it formed one of the antiplions in the 
ofrice for the dead ; and to sing placebo means to be humble and com- 


Lo. irons Cinis' thilke Pereien, 

How he destniyecl the ryver of Gysen, 

For that an hoi-s of his was dreynt thcriune, 

Whan that lie wente Babih^yne to wynne : 

He made tliat the lyver was so srual, 

Tliat wommen mighte wade it over al. 

Lo, what sayde he, that so wel teche canl* 

Ne be no felaw to an irons man, 

Ne with no wood man walke by the way, 

Lest the repent. I wel no lenger say. 

Now, Tliomas, leve brothex', leve thin ire, 

Thow .schalt me fynde as just as is a .squire; 

Thyn anger doth the al to sore smerte, 

Hald not the develes knyf ay at thyn herte,' 

But schewe to me al thy confessioun.' 

' Nay,' quod this syke man, ' by seynt Symoun, 
I have ben schriven this day of my cm-ate:* 
I have him told holly al myn estate. 
Nedith no more to speken of it, saith he, 
But if me list of myn hiimilite.' 

' Gif me than of thy good to make our cloyster,' 
Quod he, ' for many a muscle and many an oyster 
Hath l)en oure foode, our cloyster to arreyse, 
Whan other men han ben ful wel at eyse; 
And yit, God wot, unnethe the foundement 
Parformed is, ne of oure j)avymeut 
Is nought a tyle* yit withinne our wones; 
By God, we owe yit fourty pound for stones. 

' This story of Cyrus is told in Seneca, and Herodotus, lib. i. ; but 
the river is called Gyndes. It is probably that mentioned in Gen. ii. i 3. 

- I'rov. xxii. z-i. 

3 This is very expressive of the torment of anger, and recalls Swift's 
epitaph — ' Ubi 8a;va indignutio ultL-rius cor laccrnre nequit.' Marl. .M.S., 

^ I have to-day been confessed by my parish priest; — an announce- 
ment especially dispkasing to the friar. 

'" Churches and public buildings wore usually floored with tiles of 
various colours and patterns, in tlie arrangement of w hich exqui.-ite 
taste was displayed. At the introduction of the rage for p8eudo-clus>ic 
art, these were replaced by dingy stone. 


Now help, Thomas, for him that harewed helle, 
Or elles moote we cure bookes selle; 
And gif yow Likke oure predicacioun, 
Thanne goth the world al to destruccioun. 
For who so wold us fro the world byreve, 
So God me save, Thomas, by youre leve, 
He wolde byreve out of this world the sonne. 
For who can teche and werken as we conne? 
And this is not of litel tyme,' quod he, 

* But siththen Elye was her, or Elisee,^ 
Han freres ben, fynde I of record, 

In charite, i-thanked be oure Lord. 
Now, Thomas, help for saynte Charite.' 
Adoun he sette him anoon on his kne. 

This sike man wex welneigh wood for ire, 
He wolde that the frere had beu on fuyr-e 
With his fals dissimulacioun. 

* Such thing as is in my possessioun,' 

Quod he, ' that may I geve yow laid noon other ; 
Ye sayn me thus, how that I am your brother.' 
' Ye certes,' quod the frere, ' trusteth wel ; 
I took our dame the letter,^ under our sel.' 
' Now wel,' quod he, ' and somewhat schal I give 
Unto your holy convent whils that I lyve; 
And in thyn hond thou schalt it have anoon, 
On this condicioxin, and other noon, 
That thou depart it so, my deere brother. 
That every frere have as moche as other, 
This schaltow swere on thy professioun, 
Withouten fraude or cavillacioun.' 

* I swere it,' quod this frere, ' upon my faith.' 
And therwith his hond in his he laith ; 

' Tlie Hail. MS., for Elisce, reads Ele. Tlie friars claimed Elijah and 
Elislia, wbo, it apijeais (i Kings xvii ), were supported on tlie volun- 
tary principle, as exanqdes of their mode of life. 

* Thus Jacke Upland asks the friar, ' Why aske ye no letters of 
bretherliead of other men's praicrs, as ye desire that other men aske 
letters of you ?' And again, ' "Why be ye so hardie to grant by litters 
of frateriiitic to nun and women, that they shall have part and merit 
of all your goo'le deeds ?' 


* Lo here lu}-!! bond, in me schal be no lak.' 

* Now thamie, put thyn lioud doiin at my bak,' 
Sayde this man, ' ami gi-oi^e \vv\ byhyiide, 
Bynethe my buttok, there schaltow fyude 

A tiling, that I have hud in privete.' 
' A !' thought this frere, ' that schal go with me.' 
And douu his houd ho lauuclieth to the clifte, 
In hope for to fynde ther a gifte. 

And whan this syke man felte this frere 
Aboute his tuel grope ther and heere, 
Amyd his bond he leet the freere a fiirt ; 
Ther is no capul drawyng in a cart, 
That might have let a fart of such a soun. 
The frere upstart, as doth a wood lyoun : 
' A ! false chei-l,' quod he, ' for Goddes bones ! 
This hastow in dt;.spit don for the noones; 
Thou schalt abye this fart, if that I may.' 

His meyne, which that herd of this affray, 
Com lepand in, and chased out the frere. 
And forth he goth with a foul angiy cheere, 
And fat his felaw, there lay his stoor; 
He lokid as it were a wylde boor, 
And gi-}'nte with his teeth, so was he wroth. 
A stordy paas doun to the court' he goth, 
Wher as ther wonyd a man of gi-et honour, 
To whom that he was alway confessour; 
This worthy man was lord of that village. 
This frere com, as he were in a rage, 
Wher that this lord sat etyng at his bord: 
Unnethe might the frere sjieke a word. 
Til atte last he sayde, ' God yow se!'^ 
This lord gan loke, and sayde, Beiieclicite ! 

' The re!<iclcnce of tho lord of the manor was sometimes called ' the 
court,' from the manorial and othur courts liuld there; just as the resi- 
dence of the sovereign for tlie time biin;r is called the court, because 
tormcrly the courts of law always followed the king's person. 

' A laconic form of salutation, characteristic of an angry man, and 
meaning, May God look upon )\)u. 


Wliat, frere Jolian! what maner world is this? 
I se wel that som thing is amys; 
Ye loke as though the woode were ful of thevys. 
Sit doun anoon, and tel me what your gref is, 
And it schal ben amendit, if that I may.' 

' I have,' quod he, ' had a despit to day, 
God yelde yow, adoun in. youre vilage, 
That in this Avorld is noon so pore a page, 
That he nold have abhominacioun 
Of that I have recey ved in youre toun ; 
And yet ne grevith me no thing so sore, 
As that this elde cherl, with lokkes hore. 
Blasphemed hath our holy covent eeke.' 
* Now, maister,' quod this lord, ' I yow biseke.' 
' No maister, sir,' quod he, ' but servitour, 
Though I have had in scole such honour.* 
God likith not that Eaby men us calle, 
Neither in market, neyther in your large halle.' 
' No fors,' quod he, ' tellith me al your greef.' 
Tliis frere sayd, ' Sire, an odious meschief 
This day bytid is to myn ordre and me. 
And so jmr consequens to ech degre 
Of holy chirche, God amend it soone!' 
' Sir,' quod the lord, ' ye wot what is to doone ; 
Distempre yow nought, ye ben my confessour. 
Ye ben the salt of therthe, and savyour : ' 
For Goddes love, youx-e pacieuce ye holde ; 
Tel me your greef And he anoon him tolde 
As ye han herd bifore, ye wot wel what. 

The lady of that hous ay stille sat, 
Til sche had herd what the frere sayde. 
' Ey, Goddes moodir !' quod she, ' blisful mayde ! 

> The friar disclaims the title of Maister, as beiup; forbidden 
(Malt, xiii), though he says he is entitled to it by virtue of his degree 
of M.A. in the schools. This is an admirable picture of an angry 
man ; nothing i^leases him, not even the courtesy of his patron th« 
great man. * Matt. v. 1 3. 



Is tlmr oiiglit elles? tel nic faithfully.' 

' Madame,' quod he, ' how thynke yow therhyl' 

'How that me thynkith?' (juod sche; 'so Cod me 

I say, a cherl hath doon a cherles deede. 
What sfliuld I say? God let him never the! 
His syke heed is full of vanyte. 
I hold him in a inaner frenesye.' 
* I\Iadame,' quod he, ' I wis 1 sclial not lye, 
But I in othir wise may be wreke, 
I schal defame him over al wher I speke ; 
The false blasfememour, that chargid me 
To pai-ten that wil not dejjartrd be, 
To every man y-liche, with meschauuce!' 

The lord sat stille, as he were in a ti'aunce, 
And in his here he rollid up and doun, 
' How had this cherl ymaginacioun 
To schewe siieli a probleme to the frere? 
Never erst* er now herd I of such matiere; 
I trowe the devel put it in his mynde. 
In arsmetrik schal ther no man fynde 
Biforn this day of such a questioun. 
Who schulde make a denionstracioun, 
That eveiy man schuld lia\ e alyk his part 
As of a soun or savour of a fart? 
O nyce proude cherl, I schrew his face ! 
Lo, sires,' quod the lord, with harde grace, 
' Who ever herde of such a thing er now] 
To every man y-like? tel me how. 
It is inq)Ossible, it may not be. 
Ey, nyce cherl, God let him never the ! 
The romblyng of a fart, and every soun, 
Nis but of aier reverberacioun, 
And ever it wa.stith lyte and lyte away ; 
Ther nys no man can deme, by my fay, 

' Harl. MS. efU 


If that it were departed eqxially. 

What, lo, my cherl/ what, lo, how schrewedly 

Unto my confessour to day he S2:)ak: ! 

I hold him certeinly demoniak. 

Now etith your mete, and let the cherl go play. 

Let him go honge himself on devel way ! ' 

Now stood the lordes squier at the bord, 
That carf his mete,^ and herde word by word 
Of al this thing, which that I of have sayd. 
*My lord,' quod he, 'be ye noiight evel payd, 
I couthe telle for a gowne-cloth 
To yow, sir frere, so that ye be not wroth, 
How that this fart even dejjarted schuld be 
Among your coveut, if I comaunded be.' 
' Tel,' qiiod the lord, ' and thou schalt have anoon 
A goune-cloth, by God, and^ by Seint Johan!' 
' My lord,' quod he, * whan that the wedir is fair, 
Withoute wynd, or pertourbyng of ayr. 
Let bring a large whel into this halle. 
But loke that it have his spokes alle ; 
Twelf spokes hath a cart whel comunly ; 
And bring me twelve freres, wit ye why? 
For threttene* is a covent as I gesse; 
Your noble confessour, her God him blesse, 

• This nobleman speaks of the churl as viy churl, that is, my serf or 
Tillain. On the extinction of slavery, which thus appears to have 
been in force ia Chaucer's time, Ld. Macaulay remarks : — ' The bene- 
volent spirit of the Christian morality is undoubtedly adverse to dis- 
tinctions of caste. But to the Church of Rome such distinctions are 
pecuUarly odious, &c.' To the influence, therefore, of the theology of 
the church of the middle ages, he ascribes its imperceptible disuse. 
He adds; — ' Some faint traces of the institution of villanage were detected 
by the curious so late as the days of the Stuarts ; nor has that insti- 
tution ever, to this hour, been abolished by statute.' — Hist. Eng. ,yo\. i., 
p. 22. 

* It appears that the elegant and rational practice latterly intro- 
duced, of having the dishes carved by an attendant, is a return to that 
of our ancestors. 

3 And is omitted in the Harl. MS., but it is here supplied from 
Tyrwhitt, as manifestly required by the sense and metre. 

■* Mr. Wriglit quotes from Thorn to show that a convent of monks, 
with their superior, properly consisted of thirteen, in imitation of 


Schal pai-founi up the nombre of this covent. 

Thanne schal thay knele douu by oon assent, 

And to fveiy spokes ende in this nianere 

Fid Siidly lay his nose schal a f'rere; 

Your noble confessour ther, God him save, 

8chal hold his nose upright under the nave. 

Than schal this churl, with bely stifand tought 

As eny tabor, hider ben y-brought; 

And sette him on the whele of this cart 

Upon the nave, and make him lete a tart. 

And yc schul seen, up peiil of my lif. 

By verray proef that is demonstratif, 

That equally the aoun of it wol -wcnde. 

And eek the stynk. unto the spokes ende; 

Save that this worthy man, your confessour, 

(Bycause he is a man of gret honour) 

Schal have the firste fruyt, as resoun is. 

The noble usage of freres is this, 

The worthy men of hem first schal be served. 

And certeynly he hath it Avel deserved ; 

He hath to day taught us so mochil good. 

With preching in the pulpit ther he stood. 

That I may vouchesauf, I say for me, 

He hadde the firste smel of fartes thre; 

And so wold al his covent hardily, 

He berith him so fair and holily.' 

The lord, the lady, and ech man, sauf the frere 
Sayde that Jankyn spak in this matiere 
As wel as Euclide, or elles Phtolome. 
Touchand the cherl, thay sayd that subtilte 
And high wyt made him speken as he spakj 
He nas no fool, ne no demoniak. 
And Jankyn hath i-wonne a new goune; 
My tale is don, we beu almost at toune. 

Christ and tlio twelve apostles. Anno Domini m.c.xlvi., iste Hiijro 
reparavit iiiiti<iuum nunierum monachorum istius monasterii, et crant 
Ix. nionaclii profeusi pra?ter abbatem, hoc est, quinque conventM.'< ia 
universe. — Dcctm Scriptores, col., 1807. 

TOL. I. 2 C 



' C IR Clerk of Oxenford,' our hoste sayde, 

^^ 'Ye ryde as stille and coy as doth a raayde, 
Were newe spoused, sittyng at the bord ; ^ 
This day ne herd I of your motith a word. 
I trowe ye study aboute som sophime ; 
But Salomon saith, every thing hath tyme.' 
For Goddis sake ! as beth of better cheere, 
It is no tyme for to stody hiere. 
Tel us som mery tale, by yoiu' fay; 
For what man is entred unto play. 
He moot nedes unto that play assent. 
But prechith not, as freres doon in Lent, 
To make us for our olde synnes wepe, 
Ne that thy tale make us for to slope. 
Tel us som mery thing of aventures. 
Youre termes, your colours, and yoiir figures. 
Keep hem in stoor, til so be that ye endite 
High style, as whan that men to kynges write. 
Spekith so playn at this tyme, I yow pray, 
That we may underetonde what ye say.' 

This worthy Clerk benignely answerde ; 
' Sir host,' quod he, ' I am under your yerde,' 
Ye have of us as now the governaunce, 
And therfor wol I do yow obeissaunce, 
Als fer as resoun askith hardily. 
I wil yow telle a tale, which that I 
Lerned at Padowe of a worthy clerk, 
As proved by his wordes and his werk. 
He is now deed, and nayled in his chest. 
Now God give his soule wel good rest ! 

1 Tyrwhitt remarks that this line is an example of that construction, 
common to all writers of the age, which omits the relative pronoun. 

^ Eccles. iii. i. 

■* Sub ferula tad, under your rod, a common expression to denote 
the state of pupillafie. 


Frauiicos Potiurk," tlie lauroat poete, 

llif^hte this clerk, wlios rethoricjue swete 

Euluinyiul al Ytail of poetrie, 

As Liuiau'' ditl of pliilosopliie, 

Or hiwue, or other art particulere ; 

But deth, that wol not suffre us duellen heere, 

r.iit as it were a twyuclinj:; of an ye, 

]lem bothe hath slayn, and alle we schul dye. 

But forth to telle of this worthy man, 

That tauglite me this tale, as I bigan, 

T say that he first with heigh stile enditith 

(Er he the body of his tale wi-itith) 

A proheme, in the which descrivith he 

Pieniounde, and of Saluces the contre, 

And spekith of Appenyue the huUes hye. 

That ben the bouudes of al west Lombardye ; 

And of mount Vesulus in special, 

Wher a.s the Boo out of a welle smal 

Takith his firste springyng and his sours, 

That est-ward ay encresceth in his coui^s 

To Emyl-ward/ to Ferare, and to Venise, 

To which a long thing were to devyse. 

And trewely, as to my juggement, 

Me thiuketh it a thing impertinent, 

Save that he wold conveyen his matiere; 

But this is the tale which that ye schuln heere.' 

' See ante, p. ii, et ttq. Even if tlie ri-adiT should not be disposed 
to think that Chaucor meant to repru-sent liiniscll', in the person of 
the clerk, as having learned this tale from the mouth of I'etrarch, at 
Padua, yet it must beconce(hd that this passupe looks like an ncknow- 
ledgment, on the part of t'haucer hinist'lf, of thu obligations under 
which he lay to I'etrarch, gracffully introduced in the words of the 
clerk. One cannot conceive what object the poet could have had in 
the passage except to coniniemorato a real interview. 

- Joannes of l.ignano, near iMilan, a canonist and natural plii- 
losopher, who nourished about i 37S5, mentioned by Pauzerollus, /A- < 7. 
Lfg. Interpret., \\h. iii. c. xxv. 

^ Petrarch .-peaks of the Po as dividing the ..Kinilian (hence Clu»ucer'« 
Emyl-ward) and Flamiuian regioun from Venice. 

2 c 2 



[That the original of this story was older than Boccaccio's 
novel admits of no doubt. Petrarch was acquainted with it 
many years before it was related by Boccaccio, whom he had 
himself, probably, supplied with the chief incidents. But, 
while we have many subsequent forms of it, the novel in the 
Decameron is the earliest now known to exist. The French 
are entitled to the credit of having first introduced it to the 
stage, a play on the subject having been produced at Paris in 
1393, about nineteen years after Petrarch's death. Dramas 
were afterwards founded upon it in Italy, Germany, and 
England. Chaucer's tale is the earliest narrative in our 
language of the woes and virtues of Patient Gnssell, since 
rendered familiar to the English reader by the prominent place 
it occupies in our ballad literature. Few stories enjoy so wide 
a popularity. The incredible resignation of the heroine may 
be said to have passed into a proverb. 

Although Chaucer was indebted to Petrarch for his mate- 
rials, the story acquires originality in his hands from the 
sweetness and tenderness of expression he has infused into 
the relation. Charles James Fox, who had never seen 
Petrarch's version, describes with accuracy the character of 
this poem when he observes, in one of his letters to Lord 
Holland, that it closely resembles the manner of Ariosto.] 

'l^HER is at the west ende of Ytaile, 

-*- Doun at the root of Vesulus the colde, 

A lusty playn, abimdauut of vitaile, 

Wher many a tour and toun thoii maist byholde, 

That foundid were in tyme of fadres olde. 

And many anotliir delitable sight, 

And Saluces this noble contray liight. 

A marqiiys whilom duellid in that lend, 
As were his worthy eldris him bifore, 
And obeisaunt ay redy to his hond, 


Were alle liis liegis, bothe lesse and more. 
Thus in delyt he lyveth and hath don yore, 
Biloved and drad, thiiigli favour of fortune, 
Bothe of liis lordos and of his conuine. 

Thorwith lie was, as to speke of lynage, 
The gentileste born of Lumbardye, 
A fair jx'i-sone, and strong, and yong of age, 
And fill of honour and of curtesie ; 
Discret y-nough his contre for to gye, 
Savynge in som thing lie was to blame; 
And Wautier was this yonge lordes name. 

I blame him thus, that he considered nought 
In tyme comyng what mighte bityde, 
But on his lust present was al his thought, 
As for to hauke and liunte on every syde; 
Wei neigh al othir cures let he slyde, 
And eek he nolde (that was the worst of al) 
Wedde no Avyf for no thing that might bifal. 

Only that poynt his poeple bar so sore, 
That llokmel on a day to him thay went, 
And oon of hem, that wisest was of lore, 
(Or elles that the lord wolde best assent 
That he schuld telle him what his poejile ment, 
Or ellis couthe he schewe wel such matiere) 
He to the marquys sayd as ye schuln hiere. 

•0 noble marquys, youre humanite 
Assureth us and giveth us hardyuesse. 
As ofte as tyme is of necessite. 
That we to yow may telle oure hevynesse; 
Acceptith, lord, now of your gentilesse,* 
That we with pitous hert unto yow pLiyne, 
And let your eeris my vois not disdoync 

' And have I nought to doon in this matore 
More than another man hath in this place, 
Yit for as moche as ye, my lord so deere, 

' Harl. MS, necessitee; a mere repetition of the last word of the 
preceding liue but one. 


Han alway schewed me favour and grace, 
I dar the better ask of yow a space 
Of audience, to schewen oure request/ 
And ye, my lord, to doon right as yow lest. 

' For certes, lord, so wel us likith yow 
And al your werk, and ever han doon, that we 
Ne couthen not ourselve devysen how 
We mighte ly ve more in felicite ; 
Save oon thing, lord, if that your wille be, 
That for to be a weddid man yow list, 
Than were your pepel in sovereign hertes rest. 

' Bowith your neck undir that blisful yok 
Of sovereignete, nought of servise, 
Which that men clepe spousail or wedlok; 
And thenketli, lord, among your thoughtes wi«o, 
How that our dayes passe in sondry wyse; 
For though we slepe, or wake, or rome, or ryde, 
Ay fleth the tyme, it wil no man abyde. 

* And though your grene youthe floure as yit. 
In crepith age alway as stille as stoon, 
And deth manasith every age, and smyt 
fn ech estat, for ther ascapith noon. 
And as eerteyn, as we knowe every ch on 
That we schuln deye, as uncerteyn we alle 
Ben of that day that deth schal on us falle. 

' Acceptith thanne of us the trewe enteut, 
That never yit refusid youre best. 
And we wil, lord, if that ye wil assent, 
Cliese yow a wyf, in schort tyme atte lest, 
Born of the geutilest and the heighest 
Of al this lond, so that it oughte seme 
Honour to God and yow, as we can deme, 

' Deliver us out of al this busy drede 
And tak a wyf, for hihe Goddes sake. 
For if it so bifel, as God forbede. 

' Harl. MS., to Oiim-, 


That thurgh yoxir deth your lignage schuld aslake, 
And that a straunge successour schuld take 
Your heritage, O! wo were us on lyve! 
Whei-for we pray yow hastily to wyve.' 

Her meeke prayer and her pitous chere 
!RIade the marquys to han pite. 
' Ye wolde,' quod he, * myn owne pocple deere, 
To that I never erst thought constreigne me. 
I me rejoysid of my liberte, 
That selden tyme is founde in mariage ; 
Ther I was fre, I mot ben in servage. 

' But nathelos I se youre trewe ' entent, 
And trust upon your witt, and have doon ay; 
Wherfor of my fre wil I wil assent 
To wedde me, as soon as ever I may. 
But ther as ye have profred me to day 
To chese me a >v)'f, I wol relese 
That choys, and pray yow of that profre cesse. 

* For God it woot, that childer ofte been 
Unlik her worthy eldris hem bifore; 
Bounte cometh al of God, nought of the streen* 
Of which thay ben engeudrid and i-bore. 
I trust in Goddes bounte, and therfore 
My mariage, and myn estat and rest, 
I him bytake, he may domi as him lest. 

' Let me aloon in. chesyng of my wif, 
That charge upon my bak I wil endure. 
But I yow pray, and charge upon your lyf, 
That what wyf that I take, ye me assure 
To worschip whil that hir lif may endure, 
In wed and werk, bothe heer and every where, 
As sclie an emperoures doughtm- were. 

' And forthermor thus schul ye swer, that ye 
Ageina my chois schuln never grucche ne str3've 

' llail. ^IS., -ff of 1JOU llu troi-f. 
- Virtue comes from U oil, and not from the s^tt/i, or sfraiu (race) 
from wliich men are descended. 


For sins I schal forgo my liberie 
At your request, as ever mot I thrive, 
Thar as myn hert is set, tlier wil I wyve. 
And but ye wil assent in such manere, 
I pray yow spek no more of this matiere.' 

With hertly wil thay sworen and assentyn 
To al this thing, ther sayde no wight nay, 
Bysechyng him of grace, er that thay wentyn, 
That he wold gi-aunten hem a certeyn day 
Ot his spousail, as soone as ever he may ; 
For yit alway the peple som what dredde 
Lest that the marquys wolde no wyf wedde. 

He graunted hem a day, such as him lest, 
On which he wolde be weddid sicurly ; 
And sayd he dede al this at her requeste. 
And thay with humble hert ful buxomly, 
Knelyng upon her knees ful i-everently, 
Him thanken alle, and thus thay have an end* 
Of her entent, and hom agein they wende. 

And herupon he to his officeris 
Comauudith for the feste to purveye. 
And to his prive knightes and squyeres 
Such charge gaf as him list on hem leye : 
And thay to his comaundement obeye, 
And ech of hem doth his diligence 
To doou unto the feste reverence. 


"VrOUGHT fer fro thilke palys honurable, 
-^^ Wher as this marquys schop his mariage, 
Ther stood a throp, of sighte delitable, 
In which that pore folk of that vilage 
Hadden her bestes and her herburgage, 
And after her labour took her sustieuauuce. 
After the erthe gaf hem abundaunce. 

Among this jiore folk there duelt a man, 
Wliich that was hoi den poi'est of hem alle; 


But licighe God som tynie sendc can 
Hit; gi-ace unto a litel oxe stalle. 
Janicula men of that throop him calle. 
A cloupjhtcr liad he, fair y-ni)U!:^h to sight, 
And Grisildes this yonge mayden' hight. 

But for to speke of hir vertuous heaute, 
Than was sche oon the fayrest under sonne; 
For porely i-fostercd up was schc, 
No licorous lust was in hir body ronne ; 
Wei ofter of the welle than of the tonne 
Sche dronk, and for sclie wolde vertu please, 
Sche knew wel lal)our, but noon ydel ease. 

But though this mayden tender were of age, 
Yet in the brest of her virginite 
Ther was enclosed rype and sad corrage;' 
And in gret reverence and charite 
Hir olde pore fader fostered sche ; 
A fewe scheep spynnyng on the feld .sche kept, 
Sche nolde* not ben ydel til sche slept. 

And whan sche com hom sche wolde brynge 
Wortis and other herbis tymes ofte, 
The which sche schred and seth for her lyvyng,* 
And made hir bed ful hard, and no thing softe. 
And ay sche kept hir fadi-es lif on lofte,' 
With eveiy obeissance and diligence. 
That child may do to fadres reverence. 

Upon Grisildes, the pore creature, 
Ful ofte sithes this marquvs set his ye. 

All A "^ J 9 

As he on huntyng rood peraveuture. 
And whan it fel he mighte hir espye, 
He not with wantoun lokyng of lolye 

' Harl. MS., daM/7Wer. 

' A mature and .<erious digpoRition. 

* Koldt is here subsfituttd for iW</, the readinj; of the flarl. M.''.. ns 

hcinff more correct KrammaticiiUy, and supplyinjr a syllable rciiiiiiiJ 

by the metre. Thus in the next line xcoklc occurs in the very same 


^ Winch she slicod and boiled, or seethed for her food. 

' She kept her father's life from sinking, that is, supported him. 


His eyghen cast upon hir, but in sad wyse 
Upon hir cheer he wold him oft avise, 

Comendyng in his hert hir wommanhedc, 
And eek hir vertu, jjassyng other ^ wight 
Of so yong age, as wel in cheer as dede. 
For though the poeple have no gret insight 
In vertvi, he considereth aright 
Hir bounte, and desposed tliat he wolde 
Wedde hir oonly, if ever he wedde scholde. 

The day of weddyng cam, but no wight cau 
Telle what womman it schulde be ; 
For which mervayle wondrith many a man, 
And sayden, whan they were in privite, 
' Wol nought our lord yit leve his vanite ? 
Wol he not wedde? alias, alias the while! 
Why wol he thus himself and us bigyle V 

But natheles this marquys hath doon make 
Of gemmes, set in gold and in asm-e,^ 
Broches and rynges, for Grisildes sake, 
And of hir clothing took he the mesure, 
By a mayde y-lik to hir of stature. 
And eek of other ornamentes alle 
That unto such a weddyng schulde falle. 

The tyme of undern^ of the same day 
Ap])rocliith, that this weddyng schulde be, 
And al the palys put was in array, 

' The Harl. MS. reads any other vright ; but any, which seems redun- 
dant, and spoils the metre, has been omitted. 

'■^ Azure, or blue, was the colour of truth. 

^ The glossary explains this to mean the third hour of the day, or tiine 
o'clock. In a subsequent line [see p. 415] where this word occurs 
again, the original has luyrd tcrtid, and, in this place, hard prandii ; 
whence it may be inferred that in Chaucer's time nine o'clock, or nndcriu; 
was the usual hour of prandium or dinmr. — See Tyrwhitt. The pran- 
dilim of that period, liowever, must not be confounded with tlie moderi; 
dinner. It took place at nine o'clock, hence called hord prandii. There 
was another meal at noon, or soon after ; and a sujjper (sec Sqiujeren 
'/'ale) before going to bed. The two forms of grace in tlie Hreviary an 
for ante prandium and a7ite cwnam. In The Schipnianne.s Tale it ajipears 
that the family heard mass, and then went to dinner ; and as nobody 


Bothc h:\llc iuiil cli.iiahur, y-lik here degre,' 
Houses of ortice stuttid witli jilente ; 
TluT maystow se of deyntevous vitayle, 
That may Ije fouiide, a^ fer as histitli Itaile, 

This real luarquys, really arrayd, 
Lordt'j and ladyes in his compaignye, 
The wliich unto the feste were prayed, 
Aud of his reteuu the bachelerie.' 
With many a soun of sondry melodye, 
Unto the vilage, of which I tolde, 
In this array the right way han they holde. 

Grysild of this (God wot) ful innocent, 
That for hir schapen was al this array, 
To fecche water at a welle is went. 
And Cometh horn as soone as sche may, 
For wel sche had herd say, that ilke day 
The marquys schulde wedde, and, if sche might, 
Sche wold have seyen somwhat of that sight. 

Sche sayd, ' I wol with other maydenes stonde, 
That ben my felawes, in cure dore, and see 
The marqiiysesse,* and tL-^rfore wol I fonde 
To don at hom, as soone -as it may be, 
The labour which that longeth unto me, 
And thaune may I at leysir hir byholde. 
And sche the way into the castel holde.' 

And ivs sche wold over the threisshfold goon. 
The marquys cam and gan hir for to calle. 
And sche set doun her water-pot anoon 
Bisides the threischfold of this oxe stalle,* 
And doun upon hir knees sche gan falle. 

could communicate after eatinp, the prandium was, therefore, tlie flrrt 
meal. In some case;", there iiii;;ht liave been a slij^ht oilUuinn earlier; 
as is still the custom abroml, where a cup of coffee is sometimes taken 
an hour or two before ilie (Ujei'mcr a tu /ourclitlte, which answers to 
the praiutiiim. and is tlie first regular meal. 

' Other MSS. read irlii- in hU degre. 

• Tlie knights or bachelors. ^ Marchioness. 

^ In Italy, and other continental countries, the peasantry to this d.iy 
live in the same houses with their cattle. 


And with sad countenaunce she knelith stille, 
Til sche had herd what was the lordes wille. 

This thoughtful marquys spak unto this mayde 
Ful soberly, and sayd in this manere : 
' Wher is your fader, Grisildesf he sayde. 
And sche with reverence in humble cheere 
Answerd, ' Lord, he is al redy heere.' 
And in sche goth withouten lenger let. 
And to the marquys sche hir fader fet. 

He by the hond than taldth this olde man, 
And sayde thus, whan he him had on sydc: 
' Janicula, I neither may ne can 
Lenger the plesauns of myn herte hyde ; 
If that ye vouchesauf, what so betyde, 
Thy doughter wil I take er that I wende 
As for my wyf, unto hir lyves ende. 

' Thow lovest me, I wot it wel certeyn, 
And art my faithful leige-man^ i-bore, 
And al that likith me, I dar wel sayn. 
It likith the, and specially therfore 
Tel me that poynt, as ye have herd bifore, 
If that thou wolt unto that purpos drawe. 
To take me as for thy sone-in-lawe.' 

The sodeyn caas the man astoneyd tho, 
That reed he wax, abaischt, and al quakyng 
He stood, unnethe sayd he wordes mo, 
But oonly this : ' Lord,' quod he, ' my willyng 
Is as ye wol, agenst youre likyng 
I wol no thing, ye be my lord so deere; 
Eight as yow list, governith this matiere.' 

' Yit wol I,' quod this markys softely, 
*That in tliy chambre, I and thou and sche 
Have a collacioun, and wostow why? 
For I wol aske if it hir wille be 
To })e my wyf, and reiile hir after me; 
And al this schal be doon in thy presence, 
I wol nought speke out of thyn audience.' 

' See ante, p. m, note i. 


And in the clianiber, whil thay were aboute 
The tretys, which as ye schul aftei- hiere, 
The poeple cam unto the hons withoute, 
And wondrid hem, in how honest manere 
And tendurly sche kept hir fader deere; 
But outerly Grisildes wonder might, 
For never erst ne saugh sche such a sight. 

No wonder is though that sclie were astoned, 
To seen so gret a gest come into that place ; 
Sche never was to suche gestes woned, 
For wliich sche loked with ful pale face. 
But schortly this matiere forth to chace. 
These am the wordes that the marquys sayde 
To this benigne, veiTay, faithfid mayde. 

' Grisyld,' he sayde, ' ye schul wel understonde, 
It liketh to your fader and to me. 
That T yow wedde, and eek it may so stonde, 
As I sujjpose ye wil that it so be; 
But these demaundes aske I first,' quod he, 
' That sith it schal be doon in hasty wyse; 
Wol ye assent, or elles yow avyse? 

* I say this, be ye redy with good hert 
To al my lust, and that I frely may 
As me best liste do yow laughe or smert, 
And never ye to gi-uch it, night ne day; 
And eek whan I say ye, ye say not nay, 
Neyther by word, ne frownjmg conteuaunoe? 
SwtT this, and here swer I oure alliaiince.' 

Wondryug upon this word, quakyug for di^ede, 
Sche sayde : ' Lord, undigne and unworthy 
I am, to thilk honour that ye me bede ; 
But as ye wil your self, right so wol I ; 
And here I swere, that never wityngly 
In werk, ne thought, I nyl yow di.sobeye 
For to the deed,' though me were loth to deye.' 

' [Tlie true reacIiiiK is 'For to be deed,' where cfctd is a px?t participU 
and equivalent in meaning to 'slain.'— W.W. S.j 


' This is y-nough, Grisilde myn,' quod he. 
And forth goth he with a ful sobre chere, 
Out at the dore, and after that cam sche, 
And to the pepul he sayd in this manere : 
' This is my wyf,' quod he, ' that stondith heere. 
Honoureth hir, and loveth hir, I yow pray, 
Who so me loveth ; ther is no more to say.' 

And for that no thing of hir olde gere 
Sche schulde brynge unto his hous, he bad 
Tliat wommen schuld despoilen hir right there, 
Of which these ladyes were nought ful glad 
To handle hir clothes wherein sche was clad; 
But natheles this mayde bright of hew 
Fro foot to heed they schredde han al newe. 

Hir heeres han thay kempt, that lay untressed 
Ful rudely, and with hit- fyngres smale 
A coroun on hir heed thay han i-dressed, 
And set hir ful of nowches gret and smale. 
Of hir array what schuld I make a tale? 
Unnethe the poeple hir knew for hir fairnesse. 
Whan sche translated was in such richesse. 

This marquis hath hir spoused Avith a ryng 
Brought for the same cause, and than hir sette 
Upon an hors snow-whyt, and wel amblyng. 
And to his palys, er he lenger letfce, 
(With joyful poeple, that hir ladde and mette)' 
Conveyed hire, and thus the day they spende 
In revel, til the sonne gan desceude. 

And schortly forth this tale for to chace, 
I say, that to this newe marquisesse 
God hath such favour sent hir of his grace, 
That it ne semyd not by liklynesse 
That sche was born and fed in rudenesse, 
As in a cote, or in an oxe stalle, 
But norischt in an emperoures halle. 

' Accompanied and met bei'. 


To every wifijht sche waxen is so deere, 
And worschipful, that folk ther sche was bom, 
And from hir buitlie kuuw hir yer by yere, 
Unnethe trowed tliav, but dorst han sworn, 
Tliat to Janiclc, of which J spak bifoni 
Sche doughter were, for as by conjecture 
Hem thought sche was another creature. 

For thougli that ever vertuous was sche, 
Sche was enci-esed in such excellence 
Of thewes goode, i-set in high bouute, 
And so discret, and fair of eloquence, 
So benigne, and so digne of reverence. 
And couthe so the poeples hert embrace, 
That ech hir loveth that lokith in hir face. 

Nought oonly of Saluce in the toun 
Publissched was the bounte of hir name, 
But eek byside in many a i-egloun. 
If oon sayd W(,'l, another sayd the same. 
So sprad of hire heigh bounte the fame. 
That men and wommen, as wel yong as olde, 
Gon to Sal ace upon hir to byholde. 

Thus Walter louly, nay but really,* 
Weddid with fortunat honestete, 
In Goddes itees lyveth ful esily 
At home, and outward grace y-nough hath he ; 
And for he saugh that under low degi'e 
Wa-s ofte vertu y-hid, the poeple him helde 
A prudent man, and that is seen ful selde. 

Nought oonly this Grisildes thurgh hir witte 
Couthe al the feet of wifly horalynesse,* 
But eek whan that the tyme required it, 
The comun profyt couthe sche redresse; 
Ther nas discord, rancour, ne hevynesse 
In al that lond tliat sche ne couthe appese, 
And wisly bryng hem alle in rest and ese. 

' This Walter wedded humbly, or (I should rather gay) royally 
-scU., because of his wife's virtue. - Harl. MS., humtlesse. 


Though that hir hoiisbond absent were anoon, 
If gentilmen. or other of hir contre, 
Were wroth, sche wolde brynge hem at oon, 
So wyse and rype wordes hadde sche, 
And juggement of so gret equite, 
That sche from heven sent was, as men wende, 
Poeple to save, and every wrong to amende. 

Nought longe tyme after that this Grisilde 
Was wedded, sclie a dough ter hath i-bore; 
Al had hir lever han had a knave ^ childe, 
Glad was this marquis and the folk therfore, 
For though a mayden child come al byfore, 
Sche may unto a knave child atteigne 
By liklihed, sith sche nys not bareigne. 


THEE, fel, as fallith many times mo, 
Whan that this child hath souked but a throwe. 
This marquys in his herte loiagith so 
Tempte his wyf, hir sadnesse "^ for to knowe, 
That he ne might out of his herte throwe 
This mervaylous desir his wyf tassaye ; 
Nedeles, God wot,^ he thought hir to affraye. 

He had assayed hir y-nough bifore, 
And fond hir ever good, what needith it 
Hire to tempte, and alway more and more? 
Though som men prayse it for a subtil wit, 
But as for me, I say that evel it sit 
Tassay a wyf whan that it is no neede, 
And putte hir in anguysch and in dreede. 

For which this marquis wrought in this manere; 
He com aloone a-night ther as sche lay 
With Sterne face, and with ful ti'ouble cheere, 

' Knave meant — i, a boy (German, Icnabe) ; 2, a servant, lik« 
ffar(on; 3, from the peculiar propensilies of the latter class, a rogue. 
- To know her sincerity. ^ Harl. MS., tww God wot. 



And sayde thus, ' Grisild,' quod he, ' that day 
That I yow took out of your pore array, 
And putte yow in estat of lieigh noblesse, 
\e' have not tliat forgeten, as I gesse. 

* I say, Grisikl, tliis present dignite 
In which that I have put yow, as I trowe, 
jNIiikitli yow not forgetful for to be 
That 1 yow took in pore estat ful lowe. 
For any wele ye moot your selve knowe.* 
Tak heed of every word that I yow say, 
Ther is no wight that herith it but we twoy. 

' Ye wot your self how that ye comen heere 
Into this hous, it is nought long ago ; 
And though to me that ye be leef and deere, 
Unto my gentils ye be no thing so. 
Thay seyn, to hem it is gret schame and wo 
For to ben subject and ben in servage 
To the, that l)oru art of a smal village. 

' And namely syn thy dough ter was i-bore, 
These wordes han thay spoken douteles. 
But I desire, as I have doon byfoi'e, 
To lyve my lif with hem in rest and pees; 
I may not in this caas be reccheles ; 
I moot do with thy doughter foi' the best. 
Not as I wolde, but as my pepul lest. 

' And yit, God wot, this is ful loth to me. 
But natheles withoute youre witynge 
Wol I not doon ; but this wol I,' quod he, 
' That ye to me assent as in this thing. 
Schew now your paciens in your wirching. 
That thou me hightest and swor in yon village. 
That day that maked was oure nuiriage.' 

Whan sche had herd al this sche nought ameevyd 
Nevther in word, in cheer, or countenaunce. 

' The Harl. MS. reads yet, which makes nonsense. Yc is atloiiti-il 
from Tyrwiiitt. 

-' You were in a full low state for any goods that you possessed in 
your own right. 

VOL. I. 2d 


{For, aa it semed, sche was nought agreeved); 
She sayde, ' Lord, al lith in your plesaunce : 
My child and I, with hertly obei.<*aunce, 
Ben youres al, and ye may save or spille 
Your oughne thing; Averkith after your wilJe. 

' Ther may no thing, so God my soule save, 
Liken to yow, that may displesen me; 
Ne I desire no thing for to have, 
Ne drede for to lese, save oonly ye. 
This wil is in myn hert, and ay schal be, 
No length of tyme or deth may this deface, 
Ne chaunge my coiTage to other place.' 

Glad was this marquis for hir answeryng. 
But yit he feyned as he were not so. 
Al dreery was his cheer and his lokyng. 
Whan that he schold out of the chambre go. 
Soon after this, a forlong way or tuo. 
He prively hath told al his entent 
Unto a man, and unto his wyf him sent. 

A maner sergeant was this prive man. 
The which that faithful oft he founden hadde 
In thinges grete, and eek such folk wel can 
Don execucioun in thinges badde ; 
The lord knew wel that he him loved and draddo. 
And whan this sergeant wist his loi'des wille, 
Into the chamber he stalked him ful stille. 

' Madame,' he sayd, ' ye most forgive it me, 
Though I do thing to which I am constreyn:t ; 
Ye ben so wys, that ful wel knowe ye. 
That lordes hestes mow not ben i-feynit. 
They mowe wel be biwaylit or compleynit; 
But men moot neede unto her lust obeye. 
And so wol I, there is no more to seye. 

' This child I am comaundid for to take.' 
And spak no more, but out the child he hent 
Dispitously, and gan a chiere make, 
As though he wold han slayn it, er he went. 
Grisild moot al Buffer and al consent; 


Ami as a lainl) schc sittetli mceke and stille, 
And let this cruel serujeant doon lii.s wille. 

Suspecious was tlie defame of this man, 
Suspect his face, suspect his word also. 
Suspect the tjme in which he this bigan. 
Alias! hir doughter, that she loved so, 
Sche wend he wold han slayen it I'ight tho; 
But natlieles sche neyther weep ne siked, 
Conformyng hir to that the marquis liked. 

But atte last sjx^ke sche bigan. 
And mekely sche to the sei'geant preyde, 
So as he was a worthy gentilman, 
That she most kisse hir child, er that it deyd& 
And on hir arm' this litel child sche leyde, 
With tul sad face, and gan the child to blesse,' 
And lullyd it, and after gan it kesse. 

And thus sche savd in hir benij^ne vois : 
' Farwel, my child, I schal the never see; 
But sith I the have marked withe the croys. 
Of thilke fader blessed mot thou be. 
That for us divde u])on a cros of tre; 
Thy soule, litel child, I him bytake, 
For this night schaltow deyen for my sake.' 

I trowe that to a norice in this caas 
It had ben hard this rewthe for to see ; 
Wei might a moder than have cryed alhis, 
But natheles so sad stedefast was sche, 
That she endured al adversite. 
And to the sergeant mekely sche sayde, 
' Have her agayn your litel yonge mayde. 

' Goth now,' quod sche, 'and doth my lordes heste. 
But thing wil I jnay j'ow of your grace. 
That but my lord forbede yow atte leste, 
Burieth this litel body in som place. 
That bestes ne no briddes it to-race.' 

' Other MSS. read barme, the Inp. 
* Made tlie sign of the cross on it. — See mite. p. 1 1 . n<i( ? a. 

2 D 2 


But he no word wil to the purpos say, 
But took the chikl and went upon his way. 

This sergeant com unto this lord agayn, 
And of Grisildes wordes and hir cheere 
He tolde poynt for poynt, in schort and playn, 
And him presentith with his doughter deere. 
Somwhat this lord hath rewthe in his manere, 
But natheles his purpos huld he stille, 
As lordes doon, whan thay woln have her wille; 

And bad the sergeaunt that he prively 
Scholde this childe softe wynde and wrappe, 
With alle circumstaunces tendurly, 
And carry it in a cofre, or in his lappe; 
Upon peyne his heed of for to swappe 
That no man schulde knowe of this entent, 
Ne whens he com, ne whider that he went ; 

But at Boloygne, to his suster deere, 
That thilke tyme of Panik ^ was countesse. 
He schuld it take, and schewe hir this matiere, 
Byseching her to doon hir busynesse 
This child to fostre in all gentilesse. 
And whos child that it was he bad hir hyde 
From every wight, for ought that mighte bytyde. 

The sergeant goth, and hath fulfild tliis thing. 
But to this marquys now retourne we ; 
For now goth he ful fast ymaginyng, 
If by his wyves cher he mighte se. 
Or l)y hir word apparceyve, that sche 
Were chaunged, but he hir never couthe fynde, 
But ever in oon y-like sad and kynde. 

As glad, as humble, as busy in servise 
And eek in love, as sche was wont to be, 
Was sche to him, in every maner wyse ; 
Ne of hir doughter nought o word spak sche ; 
Non accident for noon adversite 

' Tyrwhitt changed the word to Pavie, not adverting to the original, 
where it is said that the Marquis's sister was married to the Count of 


Was seyn in hir, ne never hir doughter name 
Ne nenipnyJ sche, in ernest ne in game. 


IN this estaat tlier passed ben foure yer 
El- sche with chikle was, but, as God wolde, 
A knave child sche bar by this Waltier, 
Fill gracious, and fair for to biholde ; 
And whan that folk it to his fader tolde, 
Nought oonly he, but al his contre, merye 
Was for this child, and God thay thank and heria 

Whan it was tuo yer old, and fro the brest 
Departed fro his noris, iipon a day 
This markys caughte yit another lest 
To tempt his wif yit after, if he may. 
O ! needles was sche tcnnpted in assay ; 
But weddid men ne knowen no mosure, 
Whan that thay fynde a pacient creature. 

' Wyf,' quod this marquys, ' ye han herd er this 
My pe])le sekly berith ouie mariage, 
And uamly syn my soue y-boren is, 
Now is it wors than ever in al our age; 
The murmur sleth mjTi hert and my corrage. 
For to myn eeris conieth the vois so smerte, 
That it wel neigh destroyed hath mjii herte. 

' Now say thay thus. Whan Wauter is agoon, 
Than schal the blood of Janicle succede, 
And ben our lord, for other have we noon. 
Suche wordes saith my poeple, out of drcde.' 
Wel oucht I of such murmur taken heede. 
For certeynly I drede such .sentence. 
Though thay not pleynly s])cke in my audience. 

' I wolde Ij've in pees, if that I might; 
Wherlor I am disposid outrely, 
As I his suster servede by night, 

» You may be sure.— See ant; p. 297, note 4. 


Riglit SO thynk I to serve him prively. 
This wai-n I you, that ye not sodeinly 
Out of your self for no thing schuld outraye : 
Beth pacient, and tlierof I yow praj^' 

' I have,' quod sche, ' sayd thus and ever schal, 
I wol no thing, ne nil no thing certayn, 
But as yow list; nought greveth me at al, 
Though that my dougliter and my sone be slaya 
At your comaundement ; this is to sayne, 
I have not had no part of children twayne, 
But first syknes, and after wo and pa}Tie. 

' Ye ben oure lord, doth with your owne thing 
Right as yow list, ax.ith no red of me ; 
For as I left at horn al my clothing, 
Whan I fii'st com to yow, right so/ quod sche, 
' Left I my wille and my liberte, 
And took your clothing; wherfor I yow pre_ye, 
Doth youre plesaunce, I wil youre lust obeye. 

' And certes, if I hadde prescience 
Your wil to knowe, er ye yoiire lust me tolde, 
J wold it doon withoute negligence. 
But now I wot your lust, and what ye wolde, 
Al your plesaunce ferm and stable I holde, 
For wist I that my deth wold doon yow ease, 
Right gladly wold I deye, yow to please. 

' Deth may make no comparisouu 
Unto your love.' And whan this marquys say 
The Constance of his wyf, he cast adouu 
His eyghen tuo, and wondrith that sche may 
In pacience sufFre as this aiTay ; 
And forth he goth with dreiy countenaunce, 
But to his hert it was ful gret plesaunce. 

This ugly sergeaimt in the same wise 
That he hir doughter fette, right so he, 
Or worse, if men worse can devyse. 
Hath hent hir sone, that ful was of beauie. 
And ever in con so pacieut was sche. 


Tliat Bche no cheere made of hevynesse, 
But kist hix' sone, and after gun hiru blessse. 

Save this sche prayed luiii. it that he iniglite, 
Her litel sone he wohl in eorthe grave, 
His tendre lynies, delicate to siglit, 
From foules and from Ijestes him to save. 
But sehe noon answer of him miglite have. 
He went lus way, as him no thing ne rought, 
But to Boloyne he tenderly it brought. 

This manjuis wondreth ever tlie lenger the more 
Upon hir pacience, and if that he 
Ne hadde S()tldy knowen therbifore, 
That parfytly hir children loved sche. 
He wold have wend that of some »ubtilt« 
And of malice, or of cruel eorrage. 
That sche had suHVed this with sad vi.sage. 

But wel he knew, that, next himself, certayn 
Sche loved hir children best in every wise. 
But now of wommen wold I aske fayn, 
If these as.sayes mighteu not suffice? 
What couthe a stourdy housebonde more devyse 
To prove hir wyfhode and her stedefastnesse, 
And he contynuyng ever in stourdynesse ? 

But ther ben folk of such coudicioun. 
That, whau tht;y have a certeyn purjK^s take, 
Thay can nought stynt of her entencioun, 
But, right as tliay were bounden to a stake, 
Thay wil not of her firstc purpos slake; 
Bight so this marquys fullich hath ])urposed 
To tempt his wyf, a.s he was first disposed. 

He waytcth, if by word or counlenaunce 
That sche to him was chaunged of coiage. 
But never couthe he fynde variaunce, 
kX-he was ay oon in hert and in visage ; 
And ay the terther that sche was in age, 
The more trewe, if that were possible, 
fiche was to him, and more peuyble. 


For whifth it semyd this, that of hem tuo 
Ther nas but oo wil; for as Walter lest, 
The same plesaunce was hir lust also ; 
And, God be thanked, al fel for the best. 
Sche schewed wel, for no worldly unrest 
A wyf, as of hir self, no thing ne scholde 
Wylne in effect, but as hir housbond wolde. 

The sclaunder of Walter ofte and wyde spi-adde. 
That of a cruel hert he wikkedly, 
For he a pore womman weddid hadde. 
Hath morthrid bothe his children prively ; 
Such murmur was among hem comunly. 
No wonder is ; for to the peples eere 
Ther com no word, but that thay mortherid were. 

For which, wher as his peple therbyfore 
Had loved him wel, the sclaunder of his diffame 
Made hem that thay him hatede therfore ; 
To ben a mordi-er is an hateful name. 
But natheles, for ernest or for game, 
He of his cruel purpos nolde stente, 
To tempt his wyf was set al his entente. 

Whan that his doughter twelf yer was ot age, 
He to the court of Rome, in suche wise 
Enformed of his wille, sent his message, 
Comaundyng hem, such bulles to devyse. 
As to his cruel purpos may suffise. 
How that the pope, as for his peples reste. 
Bad him to wedde another, if him leste. 

I say, he bad, thay schulde countretete 
The popes bulles, makyng mencioun 
That he hath leve his firste wyf to lete, 
As by the popes dispensacioun. 
To stynte rancour and discencioun 
Bitwix his peple and him; thus sayd the bulle, 
The which thay han publisshid atte fulle. 

The rude poepel, as it no wonder is, 
Wende ful wel that it had be right so. 
But whan these tydynges come to Grisildis, 


I deeme that hir herte was ful wo ; 
But sche y-like sad for evermo 
Disjinsid was, this huinhh' creature, 
Thadversite of fortun al te ndure ; 

Abydyng ever his lust and his plesaunce, 
To whom that sche was give, hert and al, 
As to hir verray worldly suffisiiunce. 
But schoi-tly if I this story telle schal, 
This niarquys writen hath in special 
A letter, in which he schewith his entent, 
And secrely he to Boloyne it sent. 

To therl of Panyk, which that hadde tho 
Weddid his siister, prayd he specially 
To brynge horn agein his children tuo 
In honurable estaat al openly. 
But oon thing he him prayde outerly, 
That he to no wight, though men wold enrpiere. 
Schuld not tellen whos children thay were, 

But say the mayde schuld i-weddid be 
Unto the markys of Saluce anoon. 
And as this eorl was prayd, so dede he. 
For at day set he on his way is goon 
Toward Saluce, and lordes many oon 
In riche array, this mayden for to guyde, 
Her yonge brother rydyng by hir syde. 

Arrayed was toward hir mariage 
This freisshe may al ful of gemmes clere ; 
Hir brother, whicli that seven yer was of age, 
Arrayed eek ful freissh in his manere; 
And thus in gret noblesse and with glad chere 
Toward Saluces schapyng her journay. 
Fro day to day thay ryden in her way, 


AMONG al this, after his wikked usage. 
This marquis yit his wif to tempte mor< 
To the uttrest proef of hir corrage, 


Fully to hau experiens and lore, 

If that sche wei-e as stedefast as by fore, 

He on a day in open audience 

Ful boystrously hath sayd hir this sentence. 

' Certes, Grisildes, I had y-nough plesaunce 
To have yow to my wif, for your goodnesse, 
, And for youre tx'outhe, and for your obeissai;nce, 
Nought for your lignage, ne for your richesse ; 
But now know I in verray sothfastnesse, 
That in gret loi-dschip, if I wel avyse, 
Ther is gret servitude^ in sondry wyse; 

I may not do, as every ploughman may; 
]My poeple me constreignith for to take 
Another wyf, and cryen day by day; 
And eek the pope,' rancour for to slake, 
Consentith it, that dar I undertake ; 
And trewely, thus moche I wol yow say. 
My newe wif is coniyng by the way. 

' Be strong of hert, and voyde anoon hir place, 
And thilke dower that ye broughten me 
Tak it agayn, I graunt it of my grace. 
Retourneth to your fadres hous,' quod he, 
' No man may alway have prosperite. 
With even hert I rede yow endure 
The strok of fortune or of adventure.' 

And sche agayn answerd in pacience : 
' My lord,' quod sche, ' I wot, and wist alway, 
How that betwixe your magnificence 
And my poverte no wight can ne may 
Make comparisoun, it is no nay; 
I ne held me never digne in no manere 
To ben your wyf, ne yit your chamberere. 

' And in this hous, ther ye me lady made, 
(The highe God take I for my witnesse, 

I Harl. MS., setwise. 
2 The Harl. MS. for pope reads popes; the meaning evidently is, the 
Pope, in order to slake or allay rancour, consents, &c. 



And al so wisly he my soiile glade) 

[ never luild me lady ne niaistresse, 

But huinl)le servauut to your worthinesse, 

And ever schal, wliil that my lyf may duve, 

Aboven every worldly creature. 

' Tliat yc so longe of your bonicrnite 
Han hoklen me in honour and nubleye, 
Wher as I was not worthy for to be, 
That thonk I God and yow, to whom I preye 
For-yeld it yow, ther is no more to seye. 
Unto my fader gladly wil I wende, 
And with him duelle unto my lyves ende. 

' Ther I was fostred as a child ful smal, 
Til I be deed my lyf ther wil I lede, 
A widow clene in body, hei*t, and al ; 
For sith I gaf to yow my maydenhede, 
And am your trewe wyf, it is no drede, 
God schilde such a lordes wyf to take 
Another man to housbond or to make. 

' And of your newe wif, God of his gi'ace 
So graunte yow wele and prosperite; 
For I wol gladly yelden hir my place. 
In which that I was blisful wont to be. 
For sith it liketh yow, my lord,' quod sche, 
* That whilom were al myn hertes reste. 
That I schal gon, I wil go whan yow leste. 

' But ther as ye profre me such dowap'e 
As I ferst brought, it is wel in my mynde. 
It were my wrecchid clothes, no thing faire, 
The whiehe to me were hard now for to fynde. 
O goode God ! how gcntil and how kynde 
Ye semed by your speche and your visage, 
That day that maked was our mariagel 

' But soth is sayd, algate I fynd it trewe. 
For in effect it proved is on me. 
Love is nought old as whan that it is newe. 
But certes, k)rd, for noon adversite 
To deyen in the caa.Sj it schal not be 


That ever in word or werk I schal repenie 
That I yow gaf myn hert in hoi entente. 

' My lord, ye wot that in my fadres place 
Ye dede nie strippe out of my pore wede, 
And richely me cladden of your grace ; 
To yow brought I nought elles out of drede, 
But faitli, and nakednesse/ and maydenhede ; 
And her agayn my clothyng I restore, 
And eek my weddyng ryng for evermore. 

' The remenant of your jewels redy be 
Within your chambur dar I saufly sayn.* 
Naked out of my fadres hous,' quod sche, 
' I com, and naked moot I torne agayn. 
Al yoiu' pleisauns wold I fuLfille fayn ; 
But yit I hope it be not youre entent, 
That I smocles out of your paleys went. 

' Ye couthe not doon so dishonest a thing, 
That thilke wombe, in whicli your children leye, 
Schulde byforn the poeple, in my walkyng, 
Be seye al bare : wherfore I yow pray 
Let me not lik a worm go by the way; 
Remembre yow, myn oughne lord so deere, 
I was your wyf, though I unworthy were. 

' Wherfor, in guerdoim of my maydenhede, 
Which that I brought and no^ight agayn I bere. 
As vouchethsauf to geve me to my meede 
But such a smok as I was wont to were, 
That I therwith may wrye the wombe of here 
That was your wif ; and here take I my leve 
Of yow, myn oughne lord, lest I yow greve.' 

' The smok,' quod he, ' that thou liast on thy bak, 
Let it be stille, and ber it forth with the.' 
But wel unnethes thilke word he spak, 

' Harl. MS., melceness. Petrarch's wouds are — ' Neque omnino alia 
mihi dos fuit quam fides et mtditax.' 

- The Harl. MS., evidently by mistake, reads — 

' Within your chanibcr (lore dar,' &C. 


But went his way for routhe and for |tite. 
Byforu the folk hiraelvcn strippith sche, 
And in l)ir sinok. witli hoed and foot al hare. 
Toward hir fader liouse forth is sche fare. 

The folk hir folwen wepyng in hir weye, 
And fortune ay thay cursen as thay goon ; 
But sche fro wej)yng kept hir eyen drcye, 
Ne in this tynie word ne spak .sche noon. 
Hir fader, that this tyding herd anoon, 
Cursed the day and tynie, that nature 
Schoop him to hen a ly\-es creature. 

For oute of doute this olde pore man 
Was ever in suspect of hir niariage; 
For ever he deemed, sitli that it bigan, 
That whan the lord fuliilletl had his corrage, 
Him wolde think that it were di.sparage 
To his estate, so lowe for to light, 
And voyden hire as sone as ever he might. 

Agayn.s his doughter hastily goth he; 
For he by noyse of folk knew hir comyng; 
And witli hir olde cote, as it might be, 
He covered hir ful sorwfully wepynge; 
But on hir body might he it nought bringe. 
For rude was the cloth, and mor of age 
By dayes fele* than at hir niariage. 

Thus with hir fader for a certeyn space 
Dwellith this flour of willy pacience. 
That neyther by her wordes ne by hir face, 
Byfom the folk, nor eek in her absence, 
Ne sche wed sche that hir w;is doon ofl'ence, 
Ne of hir lughe astiuit no remembraunce 
Ne hadde sche, as by hir countenavince. 

No wonder is, for in hir gi-et estate , 

Hir gost was ever in playn huniilite; 
Ne tender mouth, noon herte delicate, 

' Fflf is tin Anglo-Sa.xon for many ; modern German, viel, pro- 
nounced fieL 


Ne pompe, ne semblant of realte ; 

But ful of pacient benignite, 

Discrete, and prideles, ay lioniirable, 

And to hir housbond ever meke and stable. 

Men speke of Job, and most for bis hiiniblesse, 
As clerkes, whan hem lust, can wel endite, 
Namely of men, but as in sothfastnesse, 
Though clerkes prayse wommen but a lite, 
Ther can no man in humblesse him acquyte 
As wommen can, ne can be half so trewe 
As wommen ben, but it be falle of newe. 


Tj^RO Boloyne is this erl of Panik y-come, 

-■- Of which the fame iip-sprong to more and lass^ 

And to the poeples eeres alle and some 

Was couth eek, that a newe marquisesse 

He with him brought, in such pomp and richesse, 

That never was ther seyn with mannes ye 

So noble array in al West Lombardye. 

The marquys, which that schoop and knewal this, 
Er that this erl was come, sent his message 
For thilke^ cely pore Gi'isildis; 
And sche with humble hert and glad" visage, 
Not with no swollen hert in hir corrajre, 
Cam at his best, and on hir knees hir sette. 
And reverently and wyfly sche him grette. 

' Grisild,' quod he, ' my wil is outrely. 
This mayden, that schal w-eddid be to me, 
Eecey\'ed be to morwe as really 
As it possible is in myn hous to be; 
And eek that every wight in his degre 

' Harl. MS. has no division liere. 
The final e lias been added to tliUk,&s more correct, grammatically, 
ftud necessary for the metre. 

3 Harl. MS., f?ood. 


Have his estaat in sittyng and servyse, 
In high plesaunce, as 1 can devyse. 

' 1 have no womman suffisant certeyne 
The chaiabrt's lor tarray in ordinance 
After my hist, and therfor wold 1 feyne, 
That tliiu were al such inaner governauuce; 
Thow knowest eek of al my plesaunce; 
Though thyn array be badde, and ille byseye, 
Do thou thy dever atte leste weye.' 

' Nought oonly, lord, that I am glad,' quod sche, 
' To don your lust, but I desire also 
Yow for to serve and plese in my degre, 
Withoute feyntyng,* and schal evermo; 
Ne never for no wele, ne for no wo, 
Ne schal the gost withinne myn herte stente 
To love yow best with al my trewe entent.' 

And with tiiat word sche gan the hous to dight, 
And tables fur to sette, and beddes make. 
And peyned hir to doon al that sche might, 
Preying the chamberers for Goddes sake 
To hasten hem, and faste swepe and schake, 
And sche the moste servisable of alle 
Hath every chamber arrayed, and his halle. 

Abouten undern gan this lord' alight, 
That with him brought these noble children tweyej 
For which the peple ran to se that sight 
Of her array, so richely biseye. 
And than at erst amonges hem thay seye. 
That Walter was no fool, though that him lest 
To chaunge his wyf ; for it was for tlie best. 

For sche is fairer, as thay demen alle, 
Than is Grisild, and more tender of age. 
And fairer fruyt bitwen hem schulde falle, 
And more plcsiiunt for hir high lynage, 
Hir brother eek so fair was of visage, 

' Harl. MS. reads fiyni/ng, evidently by mistake ; Petrarch's words are 
• Neque in hoc unquani Mit/tibor ' 

- Mr. Wright substitutes <rrl,ds a more exact traiulatiuu of Petrarch's 
word, comes. 


That hem to seen the peple hath caught plesaunce, 
Comending now the marquis governauuce. 

O stormy poeple, unsad and ever untrewe, 
And undiscret, and chaunging as a fane, 
Delytyng^ ever in rombel that is newe, 
For lik the moone ay wax ye and wane; 
Ay ful of clappyng, dere y-nough a jane,'' 
Youre doom is fals, your constaunce yvel previth, 
A ful gret fool is he that on yow leevith. 

Thus sayde saad folke in that citee. 
Whan that the poeple gased up and doun ; 
For thay were glad right for the novelte, 
To have a newe lady of her toun. 
No more of this now make I menciovm. 
But to Grisildes agayn wol I me dresse, 
And telle hir Constance, and her busynesse. 

Ful busy was Gvisild in every thing, 
That to the feste was appertinent; 
Right nought was sche abaissht of hir clothing, 
Though it were ruyde, and som del eek to-rent, 
But with glad cheer to the gate is sche Avent, 
With other folk, to griete the marquisesse. 
And after that doth forth her busynesse. 

With so glad chier his gestes sche receyveth, 
And so connyngly everich in his degre. 
That no defaute no man aperceyveth, 
But ay thay wondren what sche might be. 
That in so pover array was for to se, 
And couthe such honour and reverence. 
And worthily thay prayse hir prudence. 

In all this mene while sche ne steut 
This mayde and eek hir brother to comende 
With al hir hert in ful buxom* entent, 

1 Harl. MS., desymjng. 

2 Jane is a small coin of Genoa (Janua). Tlie meaning is, Your 
praise is dear enough at a farthing. 

» Buxom. The reading of the Harl. MS. has been restored, Jlr. Wright 
having chaiiireU it tu uciUgne, vvitliuut, ai)i)urently,sulhcient reiison, buxoiu 
meaning obedient. [But most MSSi. read Utnigne.—W . W. S.] 


So wel, that no man couthe hir pris amende; 
But atte last whan that these lordes wende 
To sitte doun to mete, he pjau to calle 
Grisikl, as sche was busy in his liulle. 

* Grisykl/ quod he, as it were in his play, 

* How likith the my wif and hir Ijeautef 

' liight wel, my lord,' quod sche, ' I'or in good fay, 

A fairer saugh I never noon than sche. 

I pitiy to God give hir prosperite; 

And so hojie I, that he wol to yow sende 

Plesaunce y-uough unto your lyves ende. 

' On thing warn I yow and biseke also, 
That ye ne prike with no tormentynge 
This tendre mayden, as ye have do mo;* 
For sche is fostrid in hir norischinge 
More tendrely, and to my supposyuge 
Sche couth e not adversite endure. 
As couthe a pore fostrid creature.' 

And whan this Walter saugh hir pacience, 
Hir glade cheer, and no malice at al. 
And he so oft had doon to Im* offence. 
And sche ay sad and constant as a wal, 
Continuyng ever hir innocence over al, 
This sturdy marquys gan his herte dresse 
To reweu upon hir wyfly stedefastnesse. 

' This is y-nough, Grisilde myn,' quod he, 

* Be now no more agast, ne yvel apayed. 
I have thy faith and thy beniguite, 

As wel as ever womman was, assayed 
In gret estate, and projtreliche arrayed; 
Now knowe I, dere wyf, thy stedefastnesse;' 
And hir in armes took, and gan hir kesse. 

And sche for wonder took of it no keepe ; 
Sche herde not what thing he to hir sayde, 
Sche ferd as sche had stei-t out of a sleepe, 

' [I'lio wonl ' mo ' iiK'an^ ' otlicr',' a delicate way of saylni? 'another.' 
Tlie Italian text ti;is uWra,aiKl tilt- Latin lias alteram. Chaucer follows the 
latter throughout.— \V. W. S.] 

VOL. I. 


U E 


Til sche out of liir masidnesse abrayde. 
' Grisild,' quod he, ' by God that foi' us deyde, 
Thou art my wyf, ne noon other I have, 
Ne never had, as God my soule save. 

' This is my doughter, which thou hast supposed 
To be my wif ; that other faithfully 
Schal be myn heir, as I have ay purposed; 
Thow bar hem in thy body trewely. 
At Boloyne have I kept him prively ; 
Tak hem agayn, for now maistow not seye. 
That thou hast lorn noon of thy children tweye. 

' And folk, that other weyes han seyd of me, 
I warn hem wel, that I have doon this deede 
For no malice, ne for no cruelte, 
But for tassaye in the thy wommanhede ; 
And not to slen my children, (God forbede !) 
But for to kepe hem prively and stille, 
Til I thy purpos knewe and al thy wil.' 

Whan sche this herd, aswoned doun sche fallith 
For pitous joy, and after her swownyng 
Sche bothe hir yonge children to hir callith, 
And in hir armes pitously wepyng 
Embraseth hem, and tenderly kissyng, 
Ful lik a moder with hir salte teris 
Sche bathis bothe hir visage and hir eeris. 

O, such a pitous thing it was to see 
Her swownyng, and hir humble vois to heere ! 
' Graunt mercy, lord, God thank it yow,' quod sche, 
' That ye han saved me my chikb-en deere/ 
Now rek I never to be deed right heere, 
Sith I stond in your love and in your grace. 
No fors of deth, ne whan my spirit pace. 

' O tender deere yonge children myne, 
Youre woful moder wende stedefastly, 
That cruel houndes or som foul vermyne 

1 Harl. MS — 

' That ye han kept my children so deert.' 


Had eten yow; but God of his mercy, 

And your benigne fader tenderly 

Hatli doou yow kepe.' And in tliat same stoiinde 

Al sodeinly sche swapped duuu to i^-ounde. 

And in hir swough so sadly holdith sche 
Hir children tuo, whan sche gan hem tembrace, 
That with gret sleight and gret dilKculte 
The children from her arm they gonne arace. 
O ! many a teer on many a pitous face 
Doun ran of hem that stoodeu hir bisyde, 
Unnethe aboute hir mighte thay abyde. 

Waltier hir gladith, and hir sorwe slakith, 
Sche lysith up abaisshed from hir traunce, 
And every wight hir joy and feste niakith, 
Til sche hath caught agayn her continaunce. 
Wauter hir doth so faithfully plesaunce, 
That it was dayute to see the cheere 
Bitwix hem tuo, now thay be met in feere. 

These ladys, whan that thay her tyme say, 
Han taken hir, and into chambre goon, 
And stripi)e hir out of hir rude ax-niy, 
And in a cloth of gold that brighte schon, 
With a coroun of many a riche stoon 
Upon hir heed, thay into halle hir brought; 
And thcr sche was honoured as hir ouglit. 

Thus hath this pitous day a blisful ende ; 
For every man and womnian doth his might 
This day in mirth and revel to despende, 
Til on the welken schon the sterres bright; 
For more solempne in every mannes sight 
This feste was, and gretter of costage, 
Than was the revel of hir mariage. 

Ful many a yer in heigh prosperite 
Lyven these tuo in concord and in rest, 
And richeliche his doughter mai-ied he 
Unto a lord, on of the worthiest 
Of al Ytaile, and thanue in pecs and rest 

•'> V 2 

^ r« w 


His wyves fader in liis coui't he kepitli, 
Til that the soule out of his body crepith. 

His sone succedith in his heritage, 
In rest and pees, after his fader day ; 
And fortunat was eek in mariage, 
Al put he not his wyf in gret assay. 
This world is not so strong, it is no nay, 
As it hath ben in olde tymes yore. 
And herknith, what this auctor saith therfore. 

This story is sayd, not for that wyves scholde 
Folwe Grisild, as in humilite, 
For it were importable, though thay wolde; 
But for that every wight in his degre 
Schulde be constant in adversite. 
As was Grisild, therfore Petrark writeth 
This story, which with high stile he enditeth. 

For sith^ a womman was so pacient 
Unto a mortal man, wel more us oughte 
Receyven al in gre that God us sent. 
For gret skil is he prove that he wroughte, 
But he ne temptith no man that he boughte,' 
As saith seint Jame, if ye his pistil rede; 
He provith folk al day, it is no drede ; 
And suffrith us, as for our exercise, 
With scharpe scourges of adversite 
Ful ofte to be bete in sondry wise ; 
Nought for to knows cure wille, for certes he, 
Er we were born, knew al our frelte ; 
And for oui'e best is al his governaunce ; 
Let us thanne lyve in vertuous suffraunce. 
But 00 word, lordes, herkneth er I go : 
It were ful hard to fynde now a dayes 
As Grisildes in al a toun tlire or tuo ; 
For if that thay were put so such assayes, 
The gold of hem hath now so bad-de alayes 


• Harl. MS., swich. The reading in -he text is that of the Lansd. XS. 
- James i. ij. 


With l)i-as, that though the copi be iair at ye, 
It wokle rather brest in tiio than i>lye. 

For wliicli hocr, for the wyves love of Bathe, — 
Wlios lyf ami alio of hir secte God mcyutene 
In high maistry, and elles were it scathe, — 
I wil with lusty hortc freiseh and gi-ene, 
Say yow a song to glade yow, I wene; 
And lat us stjTit of eruostful matiere. 
Herknith ray song, that saith in this manere. 


G< PiISILD is deed, and eek hir pacience, 
^ And botlie at oones bui'ied in Itayle ; 
For whiche I ciye in open audience, 
No weddid man so hardy be to assayle 
His wyves pacience, in liope to fynde 
Grisildes, for in certeyn he schal fayle. 

O noble wyves, ful of heigh prudence, 
Let noon humilite your tonges nayle ; 
Ne lat no clerk have cause or diligence 
To write of yow a story of such mervayle, 
As of Grisildes pacient and kynde, 
Lest Chichivache'' yow swolvve in hir entraile. 

Folwith ecco, that holdith no silence, 
But ever answereth at the countretayle ; 

' In the Envoye, Chaucer seems to indemnify himself for his patient 
aJortion of I'etrarch in tlie foregoing tale, by giving the reins to his 
characteristic wit and irony. 

- Tlic allusion is to tlie subject of an old ballail, still preseni'cd in 
the MS. Harl., sjSi, fol. i7o,b. It is a kind of I'ageant, in which 
two beasts are introduced, called liijcorne and Chichevachc. The former 
is supposed to feed upon obedient husband.s, and the latter upon 
patient wives ; and the humour of the piece consists in representing 
Bycomc as pampered witli a Huperlluity of food, and Chichevachc as 
half-starved. Tlie name Cliichevaclie is French, vacca parca. — T. 

Tyrwliitt is in error in calling the ballad a I'ageant. It is a set of 
verses intended to be inscribed on a tapestry representing the two 
beasts. There is a broad.-iide woodcut of them in the Society of 
Antiquaries' Library. For a poem by Lydgate on this subject, see 
Lydgate's Minor Tocms, edited by Mr. Ilalliwell for the I'ercy Society. 


Beth nought bydaffed for your innocence, 
But scharply tak on yow the govemayle ; 
Empryntith wel this lessoun on your mynde, 
For comun profyt, sith it may avayle. 

Ye archewyves, stondith at defens, 
Syn ye ben strong, as is a greet chamayle, 
Ne suffre not that men yow don offens. 
And sclendre wyves, felle as in batayle, 
Beth egre as is a tyger yond in Inde ; 
Ay clappith as a mylle, T yow counsaile. 

Ne drede hem not, do hem no reverence, 
For though thin housbond armed be in mayle, 
The arwes of thy crabbid eloquence* 
Schal perse his brest, and eek his adventayle : 
In gelousy I rede eek thou him bynde, 
And thou schalt make him couche as doth a quayle. 

If thou be fair, ther folk ben in prosenee 
Schew thou thy visage and thin apparaile ; 
If thou be foul, be fre of thy despense, 
To gete the frendes do ay thy travayle ; 
Be ay of chier as light as lef on lynde, 
And let hem care and wepe, and wryng and wayle.* 


' "ITTEPYN'G and wailyng, care and other sorwe 

~ ' I knowe y-nough, bothe on even and on morwe,' 
Quod the Marchaimd, ' and so doon other mo, 
That weddin ben ; I trowe that it be so, 

' These three lines possess a force of diction that will remind the 
reader of Dryden. ['And eek his adventayle' means 'and even his 
helmet," i.e. will bruise his head, however securely protected.— W. W. S.] 

- Tyrwhitt states that in some MSS. the following stanza is inter- 
posed : — 

• This worthy clerk, when ended was his tale, 
Oure hoste said and swore by cockes bones. 
Me were lever than a barrel of ale 


For wel I woot it fareth so with me. 

I have a -w-yf, the woi-ste that may be, 

For thoui;h the feend to liir y-coupled were, 

Sche wold him overmacche I dar wel swere. 

What schuld I yow reherse in special 

Hir higli malice? sche is a schrewe at al. 

Ther is a long and a large difference 

Betwix Grisildes grete pacience, 

And of my ^vyf the passyng cnielte. 

Were I unboundeu, al so mot I the, 

I wolde never eft come in the snare. 

We weddid men lyve in sorwe and care, 

Assay it who so wil, and he schal fynde 

That I say soth, by seint Thomas of Inde, 

As for the more part, I say not alle; 

God schilde that it scholde so byfalle. 

A ! good sir host, I have y-weddid be 

Tliise monethes tuo, and more not, parde ; 

And yit I trowe that he, that al his lyve 

Wyfles hath ben, though that men wold him rive 

Uuto the hert, ne couthe in no manere 

Tellen so moche sorwe, as I now heere 

Couthe telle of my wyfes cursednesse.' 

* Now,' quod our ost, ' Marchaunt, so God yow blcsse! 
Sin ye so moche knowen of that art, 
Ful hortily tellith us a pai-t.' 
' Gladly,' quod he, ' but of myn oughne sore 
For sory hert I telle may na more.' 

My wyf at home had herd tliis k-gend ones: 
This is a gentil tale for the nonea, 
As to my purpos, \viste ye my wille, 
But thing that wol not i)o, let it be stilie.' 

If these lines be Chaucer's, they can be considered only as a fragment 
of an unfinished prologue which he afterwards cancelled. He has made 
use of the same thought in the prologue which connects the Muiil.'s 
Tale with the Tale oj MdilHU.i. .Air. Wright says that in some AI.'>.S. 
the prologue given in the text is omitted, and in others a diflVrent pro- 
logue is given, and the Chrkes Tale is in some followed by the Fraiikt- 
lej/nes. The prologue and arrantrcment of the Harl. MS., as given in 
the text, are, however, evidently the genuine ones. 



[The earliest form in which this tale has been preserved is a 
Latin fable by Adolphus, written about 13 15, containing the 
adventure of the pear-tree. There is also a Latin prose 
version in the Appendix to JEsops Fahles, printed in the 
15th century. Mr. Wright has republished both these pieces 
in his Latin Stories. Chaucer, in all probability, derived the 
subject from a French fabliau older than either; enriching 
his original, as usual, with his own wit, and with those 
graphic pictures of manners which confer upon this tale a 
particular value. Pope's modern version, January and May, 
is familiar to all readers. The introduction of Pluto and 
Proserpine as the King and Queen of ' Faerie,' Tyrwhitt 
believes to belong exclusively to Chaucer. On this point 
generally, see page 335, notes i and 2.] 

"IXrHILOM tlier was dwellyng in Lombardy 

' ' A worthy knight, that born was of Pavy, 
In which he ly ved in gret prosperite ; 
And fourty yer a wifles man was he, 
And folwed ay his bodily delyt 
On wommen, ther as was his appetyt, 
As doon these fooles that ben secnlere.^ 
And whan that he was passed sixty yere,* 
Were it for holyness or for dotage, 
I can not say, but such a gret corrage 
Hadde this knight to ben a weddid man, 
That day and night he doth al that he can 
Taspye wher that he mighte weddid be ; 
Praying our Lord to graunte him, that he 

' This is, perhaps, ironical, uttered with a sly glance at the monk, 
frere, and other priests who were present ; otherwise the propriety of 
the expression in the mouth of the mercliant, himself a secular person, 
is not apparent. 

-' Tlie reading in the text is taken from the Lansd. MS., in prefer- 
ence to that of the Harl. MS., which gives the age as xl., probably 
a transposition of Ix. The knight, it seems, w.ns wifeless for forty 
years after the usual time of marriage — about twenty. 


Miglit ooncs knowcn of that blisful lif 

That is bitwix an housboud and his wyf, 

And for to lyvc under that holy liond 

W'itli which God first man to woiunian bond. 

' Noon other lif,' sayd he, ' is worth a bene ; 

For wedlok is so holy and so clone. 

That in this Avorld it is a paradis.' 

Thus sayd this olde knight, that was so wys. 

And certeinly, as soth as God is king. 

To take a \\-y{ it* is a glorious tiling, 

And namely whan a man is old and hoor, 

Than is a A\yf the fruyt of his tresor ;" 

Than schuld he take a yong wif and a foir, 

On which he niight engondre him an hair, 

And lede his lyf in mirthe and solace, 

Wheras these bachileres synge alias, 

Whan that thay fyude eny adversite 

In love, which is but childes vanite. 

And trewely it sit wel to be so. 

That bachilers have ofte peyue and wo; 

On brutil ground thay bulde, and brutelnesse 

Thay fynde, whan thay wene sikemesse; 

Thay lyve but as a brid other as a best, 

Tn liberte and under noon arrest; 

Ther as a weddid man, in his estate, 

Lyvith his lif blLsfuP and ordinate. 

Under the yok of manage i-bounde ; 

Wel may his herte in joye and blisse abounde; 

For who can be so buxom as a wyf? 

Who is so trewe and eek so ententyf 

To kepe him, seek and hool, as is his make? 

For wele or woo sche wol him not toi*sake. 

' It is adopted from Tyrwhitt, being necessary for the metre. 
* All the knijihfs reasons for marriajie are purposely made ridicu- 
lous ; for no one would di'siro to tmve a wife wlio was the ' fruit ot h\i 
treasure' — that is to say, who had married him fee money. 
3 Ilarl. MS., 6(wi7y. 



Sche is not wery him to love and serve, 
Theigh that he lay bedred til that he sterve. 
And yet som clerkes seyn it is not so, 
Of whiche Theofrast is oon of tho. 
What fors though Theofrast liste lye? 
Ne take no wif, quod he, for housbondrye,* 
As for to spare in houshold thy dispense; 
A trewe servaunt doth more diligence 
Thy good to kepe, than thin oughne wif, 
For sche wol clayme half part in al hir lif. 
And if that thou be seek, so God me save, 
Thyiie verray frendes or a trewe knave 
Wol kepe the bet than sche that waytith ay 
After thy good, and hath doon many a day. 
And if that thou take a wif, be war 
Of oon peril, which declare T ne dar.^ 

This entent, and an hundrid sithe wors, 
Writith this man, ther God his bones curs. 
But take no keep of al such vanite ; 
Deffy Theofrast, and herkne me. 
A wyf is Goddes gifte verrayly ; 
Al other maner giftes hardily, 
As landes, rentes, pasture, or comune. 
Or other moeblis, ben giftes of fortune, 
That passen as a schadow on a wal. 
But dred not, if I playnly telle schal, 
A wyf wil last and in thin hous endiu-e, 
Wei lenger than the lust peradventure. 
Mariage is a fiil gret sacrament f 
He which hath no wif I hold him schent ; 

' What follows, to the line beginning ' After thy good,' &c., is taken 
from Theoplira.stUH, Liber Aurcolus, quoted by Jerome. 

- Of these two lines there are many versions in the different MSS. 
Tyrwhitt omits them altogether, and thinks that, even if genuine, 
they were intended as the opening of a new argument, which Chaucer 
afterwards car^ellcd. 

•' Kplies. V. 33. The difference between our version and the Vulgate, 
which Chaucer follows, arises from the ambiguity of the original word, 
fivvrripiov, which is translated by the Latin sacranKntum. 


He lyveth lu'lples, and is al desolate 
(I speke of folk in seculer' estate). 
And herken why, I say not this for nought, 
That womman is for niannes help i-wrou<:;ht. 
The hcighe God, whan he had Adam maked. 
And saugh him al aloone body naked, 
God of his grete goodnes sayde thanne, 
Let us now make an helpe to this manne 
Lyk to himself; and than he made Eve. 
Her may ye see, and here may ye preve, 
That vryi is mannes help and his comfort, 
His paradis terrestre and his desport. 
So buxom and so vertuous is sche, 
Thay mosten neede lyve in unite ; 
O fleisch thay ben, and on blood, as I gesse. 
Have but oon hert in wele and in distresse. 

A wyf? a! seinte Mary, benedicite, 
How might a man have eny adversite 
That hath a vryfl certes I can not say. 
The joye that is betwixen hem tway 
Ther may no tonge telle or herte think. 

If he be pore, sche helpith him to swynk; 

Sche kepith his good, and wastith never a del ; 

And al that her housbond list, sche likith it wel ; 

Sche saith nought oones nay, whan he saith ye ; 

Do this, saith he; al redy, sir, saith sche. 
blisful ordre, o wedlok precious ! 

Thou art so mery, and eek so vertuous, 

And so comendid, and approved eek, 

That every man that holt him worth a leek. 

Upon his bare knees ought al his lyf 

Thankeu his God, that him hath sent a wif, 

Or pray to God oon hiia for to sonde 

To be with him unto hia lyves ende. 

For than his lyf is .set in sikernesse; 

He may not lie deceyved, as I gesse, 

' The knight means to say, ' I do not mean to apply this to the 
clergy, but to the laity — to secular persons.' 


So that he worche after his wyfes red; 
Than may be boldely here up his heed, 
Thay beu so trewe, and also so 'wjse, 
For whiche, if thou wolt do as the wyse, 
Do alway so, as womnian wol the rede. 
Lo how that Jacob, as the clerkes rede, 
By good counseil of his moder Rebecke, 
Band the kydes skyn about his nekke ; 
For which his fader benesoun he wan.^ 
Lo Judith, as the story telle can, 
By wys counseil sche Goddes poepel kept, 
And slough him Oliphernus whil he slept. 

Lo Abygaille,^ by good counseil how sche 
Savyd hir housbond Nabal,^ whan that he 
Schold han ben slayn. And loke, Hester also * 
By good counseil delivered out of wo 
The poeple of God, and made him Mardoche 
Of Assuere euhaimsed for to be. 
Ther nys no thing in gre superlatif 
(As saith Senec)* above an humble wyf. 
Suffre thy wyves tonge, as Catoun* hjt, 
Sche schal comaunde, and thou schalt suffre it. 
And yit sche wil obeye of curtesye. 

A wif is keper of thin housbondrye : 
Wei may the sike man wayle and wej^e, 
Ther as ther is no wyf the hous to kepe. 
I warne the, if wisely thou wilt wirche, 
Love wel thy wyf, as Crist loveth his chirche;' 
If thou lovest thiself, thou lovest thy wyf 
No man hatith his fleissch, but in his lif 

• Gen. xxvii. * i Sam. xv. 

3 Harl. MS., Kacab, a mere clerical error. 

'' Harl. jMS., for Hester also, reads after also, and for Mardoche, Mati- 
doche ; but these are obviously clerical errors. 

5 Tyrwhitt informs us that in tlie margin of MS. C. i., is given thia 
quotation from Seneca : — ' Sicut nihil est superius benigna conjuge, ita 
nihil est crudelius infesta muliere.' 

G The nom de guerre of the compiler of the Disticha, a well-known 
mediaeval collection of apliorisms. Tlie passage is given in the margin of 
MS. C. i.: — 'Uxorislinguam, si frugi est, ferre memento.' ' Eplies. v. 


He fostritli it, and therfore wame I tl>e 
Clierissh thy wyf, or thou schalt never the. 
lluusboii.l :ui(l wit" what so men j.ij)c or pleye, 
Of ■worklly folk hoklcn tlie righte weye ; 
Thay ben so knyt, ther may noon harm bytyde, 
And nameliche upon the wyves sydo. 
For which this January, of which I tolde, 
Considered hath iiiwith his dayes olde 
The lusty lif, the vertuous quiete, 
That is in manage honey-swete. 

And for his freudes on a day he sente 
To tellen hem theftect of his entent. 
Witli face sad, lie hath hem this tale told; 
He sayde, ' Fi-endes, I am hoor and okl, 
And almost (God woot) at my pittes brinke,' 
Upon my soule som what most I thynke. 
I have my body folily dis{)C'iulid, 
Blessed be God that it sehal be amendid; 
For I wil be certeyn a weddid man, 
And that anoon in al the hast I can. 
Unto som mayde, fair and tender of age. 
I pray yow helpith for my mariage 
Al sodeynly, for I wil not abydej 
And I wil fonde tespien on my syde, 
To whom 1 may be weddid hastily. 
But for als moche as ye ben mo than I, 
Ye schul rather such a thing as])ien 
Than I, and wher me lust beste to allien. 
But oo thing warne I yow, my freudes deere, 
I wol noon old wyf have in no mauere ; 
Sche schal not passe sixtene yer certayn. 
Old fisch and young fleisch, that wold I have ful fuya 
Bet is,' quod he, ' a pyk than a pikerell. 
And bet than olde boef is the tendre vel. 
I wil no womman twenty yer of age, 
It nys but bene-straw and gret forage. 

• At the brink of my grave. 


And eek these olde wydewes (God it woot) 
Thay can so moclie craft of Wades ^ boot, 
So moche broken harm whan that hem list, 
That with hem schuld I never lyven in rest. 
For sondry scolis maken subtil clerkes ; 
Womman of many a scole''' half a clerk is. 
But certeyn, a yong thing may men gye, 
Right as men may warm wax with hondes plye. 
Wherfor I say yow plenerly in a clause, 
I wil noon old wyf han right for that cause. 
For if so were I hadde so meschaunce, 
That I in hir ne couthe have no plesaunce, 
Then sch aid I lede my lyf in advoutrie, 
And go streight to the devel whan I dye. 
Ne children schuld I noon upon hir geten ; 
Yet were me lever houndes had me eten, 
Than that myn heritage schulde falle 
In straunge bond; acd thus I telle yow alle. 
I doute not, I wot the cause why 
Men scholde wedde ; and forthermor woot I, 
Ther spekith many man of mariage. 
That wot nomore of it than wot my page 
For whiche causes man schuld take a wyf. 
If he ne may not chast be by his lif,* 
Take him a wif with gret devocioun, 
Bycause of lawful procreacioun 

1 Tyrwhitt, after quoting Speght's words, ' Concerniiig Wade and 
his bote called Guingelot, as also his strange exploits in the same, 
because the matter is long and fabulous, I passe it over,' adds, ' Tan- 
tamne rem tarn negligenter ?' It is curious that no history of these 
celebrated adventures has come down to us, though so popular in the 
middle ages. Mr. Wright says that M. Fr. Jlichel, in au essay, Sitr 
Vade, has collected all that is known of this famous northern hero. 
He appears to have been a sort of Scandinavian Ulysses, and is, 
therefore, cited as an example of craft and cunning. See Troilus ami 
Creadde, b. iii : — 

'lie songe.she pleyde, he tolde a tale of Wade." 

2 Harl. MS., sld/e. 

3 This argument, taken from the old EngUsh Rltuale. is retained in 
the exhortation prefixed to the marriage service in the Book of 
Common Prayer. 


Of cliildreu, to thonour of God above, 
And not oonly for paniinoiir and for love; 
And foi- thay schuldu Icccheryc cschiewe, 
And yeld oure dettcs whan that it is due; 
Or for that ilk man schulde helfjen other 
In meschief, as a sustor schal thu brother, 
And lyvo in chastite ful holily. 
But, sires, by your leve, that am not I 
For God be thanked, I dar make avaunt, 
I fele my lemys stark and sutKhaunt 
To doon al that a man bilongetli unto ; 
T wot my selve best what I may do. 

' Though I be hoor, I fare as doth a tree. 
That blossemitli er that the fruyt i-waxe be, 
A blossemy ti'e is neither drye ne deed; 
I fele me no wlicr hoor but on myn heed. 
Myn hcrte and al my lynies ben as greene, 
As laiirer thurgh the yeer is for to seene. 
And synues ye han herd al myn entent, 
I pray yow to my wille ye assent.' 

Diverse men diversly him tolde 
Of mariage many ensamples olde; 
Some blamed it, some praised it certayn; 
But atte laste, schoi'tly for to sayn, 
(As alday fallith altercacioun, 
Bitwixe frendes in dispitesoun) 
Ther fel a strif bitwen his bretheren tuo. 
Of wliich that oon was clepid Placebo,* 
Justinus sothly cleped was that other. 
Placebo sayde : ' O January, brother. 
Ful litel need had ye, my lord so deere, 
Counseil to axe of eny that is heere; 
But that ye ben so ful of sapience, 
That yow ne likith for your heigh prudence 
To wayve fro the word of Salamon. 
This word, said he, unto us eveiychoon : 

' This name indicates bis compIaL>aace. See atUe, p. }^8, note i. 


Werk al thing by coimsail, thus sayd he, 

And thanne schaltow nought repente the. 

But though that Salamon speke such a word, 

Myn owne deex^e brother and my lord, 

So wisly God bring my soule at rest,^ 

I holde your oughne counseil is the best. 

Por, brother myn, of me tak this motif, 

I have now ben a covirt-man al my lyf, 

And God wot, though that I umvorthy be, 

I have standen in ful gret degre 

Abouten lordes in ful high estat ; 

Yit had I never with noon of hem debaat, 

I never hem contraried trewely. 

I wot wel that my lord can more than I ; 

What that he saith, I hold it ferm and stable, 

I say the same, or elles thing semblable. 

A ful gx'et fool is eny counselour. 

That servith any lord of high honour, 

That dar presume, or oones thenken it. 

That his counseil schuld passe his lordes wit 

Nay, lordes ben no fooles by my fay. 

Ye have your self y- spoken heer to day 

So heigh sentens, so holly, and so wel, 

That I consente, and conferme every del 

Your wordes alle, and youre oppinioun. 

By God ther is no man in al this toun 

Ne in Ytaile, couthe better have sayd ; 

Crist holdith him of this ful wel apayd. 

And trewely it is an heigh corrage 

Of any man that stopen is in age. 

To take a yong wyf, by my fader kyn; 

Your herte hongith on a joly pyn. 

Doth now in this matier right as yow lest, 

For fynally I hold it for the best.' 

Justinus, that ay stille sat and herde. 

Right in this wise he to Placebo answerde. 

• Harl. MS., at ese and rest, which spoils the metre 



' Now, brother myn, be pacient I yow pray, 

Syns ye have sayd, and herkiiith what I say : 

Senek amonges other wordus wyse 

Saith, that a man aught him wel avyse, 

To whom he glveth his lond or his CiiteL 

And syas I aught avyse me right wel, 

To whom I give my good away fro me, 

Wel more I aught advised for to be 

To whom I give my body ; for alwey 

I warn yow wel it is no childes pley 

To take a wyf withoute avisement. 

Men most enquere (this is myn assent) 

Wher sche be wys, or sobre, or dronkelewe. 

Or proud, or eny other way a schrewe, 

A chyder, or a wastour of thy good. 

Or riche or pore, or elles man is wood. 

Al be it so, that no man fynde schal 

Noon in this world, that trottith hool in al,* 

Neyther man, ne best, such as men can devyse. 

But natheles it aught y-nough suffise 

With any ^vyf, if so were that sche hadde 

!RIo goode thewes than hir vices badde ; 

And al this askith leyser to enquere. 

For God woot, I have weped many a tere 

Ful prively, .syns I have had a wyf. 

Prayse who so wil a weddid mannes lif, 

Certcs I fynd in it but cost and care, 

And observciunce of alle blisses bare. 

And yit, God woot, myn neighebours aboute, 

And namely of wommeu many a route, 

Sayn that 1 have the moste stedefast wyf. 

And eek the meekest oon that berith lyf ; 

But I woot best, wher wryngith me my scho.* 

Ye may for me right as yow liste do. 

' A mpf.nphor from horses, nii-.-knin^, Xo woman U witliout fauIU, 
just as there id no horso whicli will trot perlfctly souud in all 

* St>e ante, p. }ii, note 4. 

VOL. I. 2 F 


Avysith yow, ye ben a man of age, 

How that ye entren into mariage ; 

And namly with a yong wit" and a fair. 

By him that made water, eorthe, and air, 

The yongest man, that is in al this route, 

Is busy y-nough to bring it wel aboute 

To have his wif alloone, trustith me ; 

Ye schul not please hir fully yeres thre, 

This is to say, to doon hir ful plesaunce. 

A wyf axith ful many an observaunce. 

I pray yow that ye be not evel apayd.' 

' Wel,' quod this January, ' and hastow sayd 1 

Straw for thy Senec, and for thy proverbis ! 

I counte nought a panyer ful of herbes 

Of scole termes; wiser men than thow. 

As I have sayd, assenten her right now 

Unto my purpose: Placebo, what say yel' 

' I say it is a cursed man,' quod he, 

^ That lettith matrimoigne sicurly.' 

And with that word thay lysen up sodeinly, 

And ben assented fully, tliat he scholde 

Be weddid whan him lust, and wher he wolde. 

The fantasy and the curious busynesse 
Fro day to day gan in the soule impresse 
Of January aboute his mariage. 
Many a fair schap, and many a fair visage, 
Ther passith thorugh his herte night by night. 
As who so took a mirrour polissched bright, 
And set it in a comun market place. 
Than schiild he se many a figure pace 
By his mirrour ; and in the same wise 
Gan January in his thought devyse 
Of maydens, which that dwellid him l)isyde ; 
He wist not where that he might abyde. 
For though that oon have beaute in hir face. 
Another stant so in the poeples grace 
For hir sadness and hir benignite, 
That of the poeple grettest vois hath sche ; 


And som were liche and hadde badde name. 

But natheles, bitwix enie.'^t and game, 

He atte last appoyiitcd him an oon,  

And let al other tVo his herte goon, 

And cbes hir of his outline auctorite, 

For love is blynd al day, and may not se. 

And ^vhan ho '.vas into hcdde brought, 

He purtrayed in his hert and in his thought 

Hir freische beaute, and hir age tendre, 

Hir myddel smal, hir armcs long and sclendre, 

Hir wise governaunce, hir geutilesse, 

Hir woramanly berjTig, and hir sadnesse. 

And whan that he on hir was coudescendid. 
Him thought his chois mighte nought bt- 

ameudid : 
For whan that he himself concludid hadde, 
Him thought ech other mannes witte' so baddf. 
That impossible it were to repplie 
Agayn his choys : this was his fantasia. 
His frendes sent he to, at his instaunce, 
And prayed hem to doon him that plesaunce, 
That hastily thay wolde to him come ; 
He wold abrigge her labour alle and some. 
Nedith no more for him to gon ne lyde, 
He was appoynted thcr he wold abyde. 
Placebo cam, and eek his frendes soone, 
And althirfirst he bad hem alle a boone. 
That noon of hem noon argumentis make 
Agayn the purpos which that he had take; 
Which purpos was plesaunt to God, sayd he, 
And verray gi-ound of his propperite. 

He sayd, ther was a mayden in that toun, 
Which that of beaute hadde gret rcnoun, 
Al wore it so, sche were of smal dogre, 
Suffisith him hir youthe'' and hir beaute; 

* Harl. MS., icyf. The reading in tlio text is from the Lansd. M9 
a llftrl. M.S,rrou//ie. 

F 2 


Which mayde, he sayd, he wold have to his wyf, 

To lede in ease and holinesse his lyf ; 

And thanked God, that he might have hir al, 

That no wight with his blisse parten schal ; 

And preyed hem to labonre in this neede, 

And schapen that he faile not to speede. 

For than he sayd, his spirit was at ease ; 

' Than is,' quod he, ' no thing may me displease, 

Save oon thing prikkith in my conscience. 

The which I wil reherse in your presence. 

I have herd sayd,' qnod he, ' ful yore ago, 

Ther may no man have parfyt blisses tuo, 

This is to say, in erthe and eek in hevene. 

For though he kepe him fro the synnes sevene,' 

And eek from ylk a braunche of thilke tre, 

Yit is ther so parfyt felicite 

And so gret ease and lust in mariage, 

That ever I am agast now in myn age. 

That I schal lede now so mery a lyf, 

So delicat, withoute wo and stryf, 

That I schal have myn heven in erthe heere. 

For sith that verrey heven is bought so deere 

With tribulacioun and gret penaunce, 

How schuld I thanne, that live in such plesaunce 

As alle weddid men doon with her wyves, 

Come to blisse ther Crist eterne on lyve is? 

This is my drede, and ye, my bretheren tweye, 

Assoilith me this questioun, I yow preye.' 

Justinus, which that hated his folye, 
Answerd anoon right in his japerie; 
And for he wold his longe tale abrigge. 
He wolde noon auctorite alegge. 
But sayde, ' Sir, so ther be noon obstacle 
Other than this, God of his high miracle. 
And of his mercy may so for yow wirche. 
That er ye have your rightes of holy chirche, 

• The seven deadly sins, from wliich all the others branch out a.' 
from a stem. 


"Y e may repente of weddid mannes lyf, 

In which ye sayu ther is no wo ne stryf; 

Aud ellis God forbode, hut he sente 

A weddid man grace him to rcpeute 

Wei ofte, rather than a sengle man. 

And tlu'rfor, sire, the beste reed I can, 

Dispaire vow nought, but liave in youre memorie, 

Pei-ad venture slie may be your purgatorie ; 

Sche may be Goddes meue aud Goddes wliippe; 

Thau schal your soule up to heven skippe 

Swylter than doth an arwe out of a bowe. 

I hope to God herafter you shuln knowe, 

That ther nys noon so grct felicite 

In mariage, ne nevermor schal be, 

That you schal lette of your savacioun, 

So that ye use, as skile is and resoun, 

The lustes of your \ryi attemperely, 

And tliat ye please hir not to amorously; 

And that ye kepe yow eek from other syune. 

INIy tale is doon, for my witt is tliynne. 

Leth not agast hereof, my brother deere, 

But let us waden out of this matiere. 

The wif of Bathe,' if ye han understonde, 

Of mariage, which ye han now in honde, 

Declared hath ful wel in litel space; 

Fareth now well, God have yow in his grace.' 

And with that word this Justinus and his brother 
Han tak her leve, and ech of hem of other. 
And whan they saugh that it most needis be, 
Thay wroughten so by sleight and wys trete, 
That sche this mayden, which that Mayhus hight, 
As hastily as ever that sche might, 
Schal weddid be unto this Januarie. 
I trow it were to longe yow to tarie, 
If I yow tolde of every scrit and bond, 
By which that sche was feoffed in his lond ; 

' Justimis is here made to speak as if he had actually heard the 
it'uffJ Satluii Tale, which had been just recited. 


Or for to herken of hir riche array. 
But finally y-comen is that daj', 
That to the chirche bothe ben thay went, 
For to receyve the holy sacrament.^ 
Forth comth the preost, with stoole'^ about his necke, 
And bad hir be lik Sarra and Rebecke^ 
In wisdom and in trouth of naariage ; 
And sayd his orisouns, as is usage, 
And crouched* hem, and bad God schuld hem bles 
And made al secur y-nough with holinesse. 
Thus ben thay weddid with solempnite ; 
And atte feste sittith he and sche 
With othir worthy folk upon the deyes. 
Al ful of joy and blis is the paleys, 
And ful of instrumentz, and of vitaile, 
The moste deintevous of al Yiaile. 
Bifom hem stood such instruments of soun, 
That Orpheus, ne of Thebes Amphioun, 
Ne maden never such a melodye. 
At every cours ther cam loud menstralcye,' 

' Either the sacrament of marriage, or the holy eucharist, which 
was then usually received by the newly married, a custom still 
enjoined by the English Book of Common Prayer. See rubric after 
marriage service. 

- The stole is a strip of silk, which used formerly to be richly 
embroidered and fringed at the ends, worn round the neck with the 
ends hanging down before by priests, and over the left shoulder by 
deacons, and is supposed to symbolize the ' yoke' of Christ. 

3 The exhortation to be like Sarah and Rebecca is retained in the 
English service. 

■* He crouched them means he made the sign of the cross over 
them. Thus, in Skelton's Colin Clout, Ryott is represented — 
' And by his syde his whynarde, and his pouche. 
The devyll might dance therein for any crouche.' 
Here crouche means a piece of money marked with a cross, to which 
symbol the devil is supposed to have a peculiar antipathy. The form 
in the liiiufile JRomanum is, 'Ego conjungo vos in matrimoniimi. In 
nomine Patris + et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.' Tliemark means 
that the priest was to sign them in this form with his hai.-d. 

* There is an example of the custom of ushering in the several 
courses at solemn feasts with music in Dugdale's OrUjincs JurUUcinks, 
p. 1 55, where he describes the observances at Christmas in the Innec 
Temple. At dinner, ' at the first course is served in a fair and l;irge 


That never tromped Joab' for to heere, 
Ne he Theo(h)nia.s yit half so cleere 
At Thebes, whan the eitee was iu doute. 
Bachus the "wyn hem schenchith al aboute, 
Auil Venus hui^hith upon eveiy wiglit, 
(For Janiuiry was bycome liir knight, 
And wolde bothe assayen his corrage 
In liberte and eek in manage) 
And with liir fuyrlirond in hir houd aboute 
Dauuceth bit'ure the bryde and al tlie route. 
And certeynly I dar right wel say this, 
Ymeneus, that god of weddyng is, 

bore's liead, upon a silver platter, wUh minstralci/e.' Holinshed 
(Chron. iii. 76) says that in the year 1 i/o, Henry II. ' served his sonne 
at the table as sewer. brinjjiiiK up the bore's head [then tlie principal 
dish] irith trumpets bejore it accordiiui to the manner.' In the collection 
of Christmas Carols, published by Wynkyn de Worde in iS^ tlir 
following specimen of the ' minstralcye' used on such occasions : — 

' Caput apri defero 
Keddens laudes Domino. 

The bore's head in hand bring I, 
With garlans gay and rosemary ; 
I pray you all singe merely, 
Qui estis in convivio. 

The bore's head, I understand. 
Is the chefe servyce in the lande, 
I^ke, wherever it be fande, 

Servite cum cantico,' &c. 

VVarton says that this carol, with many variations, was still retained 
in liis time at Queen's Coll., Oxford. In another, contained in the 
' Parkinpton .M.S.," a miscellany of the lifteenth century, is a bill of 
fare, which would puzzle the most accomplished cook of modern times -. — 

' Hey, hey, hey, hey, the borys hede is armyd gay. 
• ••••• 

Then commys in the second kowrn with mykylle pryrte, 
'fhecr.innus, thi; herroun-', the bitters by tliT sydo, 
The pertrychys and the plowers, the uonlcokes and the snyt. 

With hey, hey," &c. 

' Joab is David's captain of the host, and is often represented as 
' blowing the trumpet,' to call together the army of .luduh. Tyrwhitt 
bupposis that Theodainas is a character in some romantic history of 
Thebes. He is prelixed emphatically, as in p. 4:'?, him Oliphemuj 
him Mardoche. 


Seigh never his lif so mery a weddid man. 

Holde thy pees, thow poete Marcian/ 

That writest us that ilke weddyng merye 

Of hir Philologie and him Mercurie, 

And of the songes that the Muses songe ; 

To sma] is bothe thy penne and eek thy tonge 

For to descrive of this mariage. 

Whan tender youthe hath weddid stoupyng age, 

Ther is such mirthe that it may not be write; 

Assaieth it your self, than may ye wyte 

If that I lye or noon in this mateere. 

Mayus, that sit with so benigne a cheere, 

Hir to bihold it seemed feyerye;^ 

Queen Esther loked never with such an ye 

Un Assuere, so meke a look hath sche; 

I may not yow devyse al hir beaute ; 

But thus moche of hir beaute telle I may. 

That sche was lyk the brighte morw of JMay, 

Fullild of alle beaute and plesaunce. 

This January is ravyscht in a traunce, 
At every tyme he lokith in hir face, 
But in his hert he gan hir to manace, 
That he that night in armes Avoid hir streyue 
Harder than ever Paris did Eleyne. 
But natheles yit had he gret })ite 
That thilke night ofFenden hir most he. 
And thought : ' Alas ! O tendre creature, 
Now wolde God ye mighte wel endure 
Al my corrage, it is so scharp and keene ; 
I am agast ye schul it not susteene. 
For God forbede, that I dede al my might. 
Now wolde God that it were woxe night. 
And that the night wold stonden evermo. 
I wold that al this poeple were ago.' 

' An African, who lived in the time of Heraclius, and wrote at 
Komo, among other things, a poem on grammar and the arts, under 
rhe name of De A'apliis PhUolofiim et Mtrcimi. 

* lt.-:eemed like being in fairy-land. 


And f)Tially he doth al liis labour, 
As he best mighte, savyng his honour, 
To hast licm from the mete in subtil wise. 

Tlio tymo cam that resoun was to ryse, 
Anil after that men daunce, and drynke fast. 
And spices al about the hous thay cast. 
And ful of joy ;xnd blis is every man, 
Al but a squier, that liii^ht Damyan, 
Which karf to-for the knight ful many a day ; 
He was so ravyssht on his lady May, 
That for the verray peyue he was nigh wood : 
Almost he swelt and swowned ther he stood; 
So sore hath Venus hurt him with liir brond, 
As that sclie bare it daunsyng in hir liond. 
And to his bod he went him hastily; 
No more of him as at this tyme telle I ; 
But ther I lete him now his wo complcyne, 
Til freisshe May wol rewen on his jjeyne. 
O perilous fuyr, that in the bed-straw bredith ! 
O famuler fo, that his service bedith ! 
O seiwaunt traitour, false homly hewe,' 
Lyk to the nedder in bosom sleighe" untrewe, 
God schild us alle from your acqueintance ! 
O January, dronkcn in plesaunce 
Of mariage, so how thy lJ)amyan, 
Thyn oughne squier and thy borne man, 
Entendith for to do the vilonye; 
God graunte the thin homly fo espye. 
For in this world nys worse pestilence 
Than homly foo, alday in thy presence. 

Pariburmed hath the sonne his ark diourne, 
No longer may the body of him sojourue 

• Sir. Wriplit lins restored, from tlie Ilarl. MS., the true reaUiiijf 
given ill tlu- text, (corrupted liy 'Iyr«liitt into O JaUc of holy heur.) 
and explains it thus: Jtvic is from tlie An^lo-Saxon hiu-a.a servant: 
homly Ifir means, therefore, domestic ser\-ant. 

- aieighe is iuiruducod from the Lansd. MS. to complete tbc 


On thorisonte, as in that latitude ; 

Niglit with his mantel, that is derk and rude, 

Gan oversprede themesperie aboute ; 

For which departed is the lusti route 

Fro January, with thank on every side. 

Hoom to her houses lustily thay ryde, 

Wher as they doon her tliinges, as hem leste. 

And whan they seigh her tyme thay goon to re,ste. 

Soone after that this hasty Januarie 

Wold go to bed, he wold no lenger tarie. 

He di'inkith yjjocras,^- clarre, and vernage 

Of spices hote, to encrese his corrage ; 

And many a letuary had he ful fyn, 

Siich as the cursed monk daun" Constantin 

Hath writen in his book de Coitu; 

To ete hem alle he wold^ no thing eschieu. 

And to his prive frendes thus sayd he : 

' For Goddes love, as soone as it may be, 

Let voyden al this hous in cui-teys wise.' 

And thay han doon right as he wold devyse. 

1 Ypocras is a mixture of wine and spices, probably so called because 
prescribed by Hippocrates. Clarre is wine clarified with honey. Ver- 
nage is the wine de agro Veronensi. It was usual to drink spiced wine 
immediately before going to bed ; and in the court of France there 
was an officer specially appointed to superintend this branch of the 
household, and called I'espicier. Thus, in The Squier of Lorn Degree, 
the King of Hungary attempts to comfort his daughter by promising 
her all sorts of luxuries, among others 

' Ye shall have rumney and malespine, 
Both 3/pocrasse and vernage wine. 

* tf * » 

Both Clare, pyment, and rochell.' 
For mixing honey with wine our ancestors had the authority of the 
prince of Epicureans : — 

' Xisi Hymettia niclla Falerno 
Ne biberis diluta.' — Hor. Sat. lib. ii. ; Sat. ii. iS. 

2 Daun is a corruption of Dom, for Dominus, the title usually given 
to the Benedictines, as Dom Martene,in allusion to which La Fontaine, 
in his fables, maliciously calls the hog Dom Porceaux. This Dom 
Constantine was a writer on medicine, and flourished about a.u. io8o. 
—Fabric. liibl. Med- JCtat. 

•* For M:o/d the Harl. MS. reads nas. 


^IfH drinkt'ii, jiikI the travers drawe anoon ; 

The luniyd was lirought abcdde as stille as stoon; 

And wlian the bitl was with the prost y-blessid;' 

Out of the chambre hath every wight him dressed, 

And January liath fast in aruics take 

ili.s freis.sho May, liis paradys, liis make. 

He hillith hir, he kissith hii* full ofte; 

With thikke bristlis on his berd uusofte, 

Lik to the skyn of houndfisch, .schaip as brere;, 

(For he was schave al no we in his manere) 

He rubbith hir about hir tendre face, 

And sayde thus : ' Alias ! I mot trespace 

To yow, my spouse, and yow gretly otl'eude, 

Or tyme come that I wol doun desceude; 

But natheles considerith this,' quod he, 

' Ther nys no werkmen, whatsoever he be, 

That may bothe werke wel and hastily; 

This wol be doon at leysir parfitly. 

It is no fors how longe that avc pleye; 

In trewe wedlock coupled be we tweye; 

And blessed be the yok that we ben inne, 

For in our actes we mow do no synne. 

A man may do no synne with his wit, 

No hurt himselven with his oughne knyf : 

For we hau leve to play us by the lawe.' 

Thus laborith he, til that the day gan dawe, 
And than he takith a sop in fyn clarre, 
And upright in his bed than sittith he. 
And after that he song ful lowd and clere, 
And kissed his wyl", and made wautoun cheere. 

' The following is a translation of the form of blo.-fsin;? the nuptial 
bed to be found in the service books used before the Ueformaiion : — 

V. Our help is in the name of tlie Lord. 

R. Who hath made hcavi-n and earth. 

V. The Lord be with you. 

R. And witli thy spirit. 
O Lord, bless this bed ; that all who rest therein may be in peHce with 
thee, and continui' in thy will, and grow old, and multiply in length 
of dayj, and liually come to thy heavenly kingdom, through Christ. 


He was al coltissh, ful of ragerye, 

And ful of jargoun, as a flekked pye. 

The slakke skin about his nekke scliakith,^ 

Whil that he song, so chavmteth he and craketli. 

But God wot what that May thought in hir hert, 

Whan sche him saugh up sittyng in his schert, 

In his night-cappe, and with his nekke lene ; 

Sche praysith nought his pleying worth a bene. 

Than sayd he thus : ' My reste wol I take 

Now day is come, I may no lenger wake.' 

And doun he layd his heed and sleep til prime. 

And afterward, whan that he saugh his tyme, 

Up riseth January, but freissche May 

Holdith hir chamber unto the fourthe dav. 

As usage is of wyves for the best. 

For every labour some tyme moot have rest, 

Or elles longe may he not endure; 

This is to say, no lyves creature. 

Be it of fissch, or brid, or best, or man. 

Now wol I speke of woful Damyan, 
That languyssheth for love, as ye schuln here; 
Therefore I speke to him in this manere. 
I say, ' O sely Damyan, alias ! 
Answere to my demaunde, as in this caas, 
How schaltow to thy lady, fi'eissche May, 
Telle thy woo 1 Sche wol alway say nay ; 
Eek if thou speke, sche wol thy woo bywreye ; 
God be thy help, I can no better seye.' 

This seke Damyan in Venus fuyr 
So brennith, that he deyeth for desir; 
For which he put his lyf in aventure^ 
No lenger might he in this wo endui'e, 
But prively a penner^ gan he borwe, 
And in a letter wrot he al his sorwe, 

' Harl. MS. slalceth. which is a repetition of the former idea. The 
n'.idinf; in the text is from the Lansd. MS. 
- Mr. Wright says tliat a penner was a case containing writing- 


In maner of a corapleynt or of a lay, 
Unto his faire frcissclie lady May. 
And in a imi*s of silk, lung on liis schert, 
Ik' hutli it put, and layd it at liis liert. 

The moone that a-noon was thilke day 
That January hath weddid fieissche May 
In tuo of Taurc, was into Caucre gliden ; 
So long hath ^layus in hu- chambre abiden, 
As custom is unto these nobles alle.' 
A brydo schal not eten in the halle, 
Til dayes foure or thre dayes attc lest 
I-passed ben, than let hir go to the fest. 
The fourthe day coraplet fro noon to noon, 
Whan that the heighe masse was i-doon, 
In halle sitte this Januaiy and INIay, 
As freissch as is the bi-ighte someres day. 
And so bifelle, that this goode man 
Rcmembrid him upon this Damyan, 
And sayde, ' Seinte Mary ! how may this be, 
That Damyan entendith not to me! 
Is he ay scuk? or how may this bityde"?' 
His squiers, which that stoode ther bisyde, 
Excusid him, bycanse of his syknesse. 
Which letted him to doon his busyncsse; 
Noon other cause mighte make him larie. 
' That me for-thinketh,' quod this Januavie ; 
' He is a gentil squyer, by my trouthe, 
If that he dcvde, it were harm and routhe. 
He is as wys, discret, and eek secre. 
As any man I wot of his degre, 
And thcrto manerly and servysable, 
And for to be a thrifty man right able. 

materials, ami quotes an early vocabulary, called Xominale, in wliich, 
among the ' nomina rerum pcrtinentium clcrico,' is pninare. n peinn r. 
In Occleve's portrait (see ante, p. 19) Chaucer is represented with a pcnner 
suspended Ironi his neck. 

« This appears to bo the origin of our custom of spendiug the honeymoon 
in retirement. 


But after mete, as soon as ever I may, 

I wol myself visit liim, and eek May, 

To doon him al the confort that I can.' 

And for that word him blessed eveiy man, 

That of his bounte and his gentilesse 

He wolde so comfort in seekenesse 

His squyer, for it was a geutil deede. 

' Dame,' quod this January, ' tak good heede, 

At after mete, ye with your wommen alle, 

(Whan ye han ben in chambre out of this halle 

That alle ye goo to se this Damyan ; 

Doth him desport, he is a geutil man,^ 

And tellith him that I wil him visite, 

Have T no thing but rested me a lyte ; 

And spedith yow foste, for I wol abyde 

Til that ye slepe faste by my syde.' 

And with that word he gan unto him calle 

A squier, that was marchal of his halle, 

And told hirh certeyn thinges that he wolde. 

This freissche May hath streight hir wey i-holde 
With alle hir wommen unto Damyan. 
Doun by his beddes syde sat sche than, 
Comfortyng him as goodly as sche may. 

This Damyan, whan that his tyme he say. 
In secre wise, his purs, and eek his bille. 
In which that he i-writen had his wille. 
Hath put into hir hond withouten more. 
Save that he siketh wonder deepe and sore. 
And softely to hir right thus say he ; 
' Mercy, and that ye not discover me ; 
For I am deed," if that this thing be kidde.' 
This purs hath sche inwith hir bosom hud. 

^ This is an illustration of the fact, that in the middle ages men of 
good family fiociueiitly accepted service in the Iiouseliolds of people of 
rank. Damyan, here called a ' gentil man,' is elsewhere described as 
being a homlij hew, or domestic servant, in the house of January. 
* Harl. MS. runs on as follows : — 

' if that this thing discovered be. 
This purs in hir bosom hud hath sche.' 



And went liir way; yc gete no more of me; 
But imto January comeu is sche, 
That on his beddes syde sit ful softe. 
He takith hir. and kissitli hir ful ofte ; 
And hiyd him doun to slope, and that anoon. 
Sche feyned hir as that sche moste goon 
Thcr as ye woot that every wiglit moot neede ; 
And whan sche of this bille hath taken heede, 
Sche rente it al to cloutes atte laste, 
And into the privy softcly it cast. 

Who studieth now but faire freissche jNIayl 
Adoun by olde January sche lay, 
That slepith, til that the coughe hath him awaked ; 
Anoon he prayde stripen hir al naked. 
He wold of hir, he sayd, have some plesaunce; 
Hii' clothis dede him, he sayde, som grevaunce. 
And sche obeieth, be hir lief or loth. 
But lest that precious folk be with me wroth, 
How that he wroughte I dar not telle, 
Or whethir it semed him paradys or helle ; 
But here I lete hem werken in her wise 
Til evensong rong, and than thay most arise, 

Whethir it be by desteny or adventure, 
Were it l)y influence, or by nature, 
Or by constellacioun, that in such estate 
The heven stood that tyme fortunate, 
As for to putte a bille of Venus werkis 
(For alle thing hath tyme, a.s soyn these clerkis) 
To eny womman for to gete hir love, 
I can not say ; but grete God above, 
That knowith that noon acte is causeles, 
He dome of al, for I wil holde my pees. 
But soth is this, how that this freisshe May 
Hath take such impressioun that day, 
Of pite on this sike Damyan, 
That from hir herte sche ne dryve can 

The reading in the text is from the Lansd. MS., and is adopttd b«cau;>e 
it avoids the repetition of rhymes in the other reading. 


The remembraunce for to doon him ease. 
' Certeyn,' thought sche, ' whom that this thing dis- 
" I rekke not, for her I him assure, [please 

To love him best of eny creature, 
Though he no more hadde than his scherte.' 
Lo, pite renneth soone in gentil herte.^ 
Heer may ye see, how excellent fraunchise 
In womman is whan thay narow hem avyse. 
Som tyraunt is, as ther ben many oon. 
That hath an hert as hard as is a stoon. 
Which wold han lete sterven in the place 
Wei rather than han graunted him her grace ; 
And hem rejoysen in her cruel pride, 
And rekken nought to ben an homicide. 

This gentil May, fulfillid of pite. 
Right of hir hond a letter maked sche. 
In which sche grauntith him hir verray grace; 
Ther lakkid nought but oonly day and place, 
Wher that sche might unto his lust suffise ; 
For it schal be, right as he wol devyse. 
And whan sche saugh hir tyme vipon a day 
To "visite this Damyan goth May, 
And subtilly this lettre doun sche thruste 
Under his pylow, rede it if him luste. 
Sche takith him by the honde, and hard him twiste 
So secrely, that no wight of it wiste, 
And bad him be al hool, and forth sche wente 
To January, whan that he for hir sente. 
U]) ryseth Damyan the nexte morwe, 
Al passed was his siknes and his sorwe. 
He kembith him, he pruneth him and pyketh, 
He doth al that unto his lady likith; 
And eek to Januaiy he goth as lowe 
As ever did a dogge for the bowe.'' 
He is so plesaunt unto every man, 
(For craft is al, who so that do it can) 

> This proverbial expression occurs before, ante, p. 145. 
* As we say, a dog ibr the guu. 


Tlmt every wight is fayxi to speke him good ; 
And fully in his ladys grace he stood. 
Tims K'to I Duniyan ahout his neede, 
And iu my talo lortli I wol procedf. 
Sonieclerkes holden that felicite' 
Slant in del it, and thertur certeyn he 
This noble January, with al his might 
In honest wise as longith to a knight, 
Schop him to lyve ful deliciously. 
His housyng, his array, as honestly 
To his degre was maked as a kynges. 
Amonges other of his honest thinges 
He had a gardyn walled al with stoon, 
So fair a gardyn wot I no wher noon. 
For out of doute I veiTely suppose, 
That he that wroot the Romaims of the Rose,* 
Ne couthe of it the beaute wel devyse ; 
Ne Priapus ue might not wel suffice. 
Though he be god of gardyns, for to telle 
Tlie beaute of the gardyn, and the welle, 
That stood under a laurer alway gi'eene. 
Ful ofte tyme he Pluto and his queene' 
Preserpiua, and al the fayerie, 
Desporten hem and maken melodye 
Aboute that welle, and daunced, as men tolde. 
This noble knight, this Januaiy the olde. 
Such deynte hath iu it to walk and pleye, 
That he wold no wiglit sulire here the keye, 
Save he himself, for of the smale wyket 
He bar alway of silver a smal cliket. 
With which whan that him list he it unschette. 
And whan he wolde pay his wyf hir dette 

' Alluding to the Kpicurcan philosopliy. 
' The Roman df la Itose was begun by Williiim of Loris, who died 
about iz6o, and was finished by John of Meun, one of the wits of 
the court of Charlca le IJel. 'Ihe (lillicultiesi of a lover in obtaining 
the object of his lovo nro (lei)lct<xl under the allegory of a rose Iu a beautiful 
ganleu surroauded by walls and 1kiIj.'i~<. 

' See aiiU-, p. U5, note 2. ^ 

VOL. r. 2 G 



In somor sesoun, thider wold he go, 

And May his wyf, and no wight but thay tuo; 

And thinges which that weren not doon in bedde, 

He in the gardyn parformed hem and spedde. 

And in this wise many a mery day 

Lyved this January and freische May; 

But worldly joye may not alway endure 

To Januaiy, ne to no creature. 

O sodeyn hap ! o thou foi-tune unstable ! 
Lyk to the scorpioun so desceyvable, 
That flaterist with thin heed whan thou wilt 

Thy tayl is deth, thurgh thin envenymynge. 
O britel joye ! o sweete venym queynte ! 
O monster, that so subtily caust peynte 
Thyn giftes, under hew of stedfastnesse. 
That thou desceyvest bothe more and lesse ! 
Why hastow January thus deceyved, 
That haddist him for thy fulle frend recey ved 1 
And now thou hast byreft him bothe his yen. 
For sorw of which desireth he to dyen. 
Alias ! this noble January fre, 
Amyd his lust and his pi'osperite 
Is woxe blynd, and that al sodeynly. 
He wepith and he weyleth pitously ; 
And therwithal, the fuyr of jalousye 
(Lest that his wif schuld falle in some folye) 
So brent his hei'te that he wolde fayn 
That som man bothe hir and him had slayn ; 
For neyt-her after his deth, nor in his lyf, 
Ne wold he that sche were love ne wyf. 
But ever lyve as wydow in clothes blake, 
Soup as the turtil that lost hath hir make. 
But atte last, after a moneth or tweye, 
His sorwe gan aswage, eoth to seye. 

1 Sole, alone, or a widow, like the turtle, &c. Femme sole is the 
!<4'al phrase for an unmarried woman. 


For whan he wist it may noon other b^ 
He pacicntly took his advci-site; 
Save out of cloute he may not forgoon, 
That lie nas jalons evermore in oon; 
Whicli jalousie it was so outrageous, 
That neyther in halle, ne in noon other lious, 
Ne in noon other place never the mo 
He nokle sutire hir to lyde oi- go, 
But if that he had hond on hir alway. 
For which ful ofte wepeth freische May, 
That loveth Damyan so benignely, 
That sche moot outher deyeu aodeinly, 
Or elles sche moot han him as hir lest; 
She waytith whan hir lierte wolde brest. 
Upon that other syde Damyan 
Bicomen is the sorwfulleste man 
That ever was, for neyther night ne day 
Ne might he speke a word to fressche May, 
As to his purj)0s, of no such matiere, 
But if that January most it heere, 
That had an hond upon hir everrao. 
But uutheles, by WTityng to and fi'o, 
And prive signes, wist he what sche ment, 
And sche knew eek the f^ii of his entent. 
O Januaiy, what might it thee availe, 
if tliou might see as fer as scliippes saile? 
For as good is blj'nd deceyved be, 
As to be deceyved whan a man may see. 
Lo, Argus, which that had an hundred eyen, 
For al tliat ever he couthe poure or prien, 
Yet was he blent, as, God wot, so ben moo, 
That weneth wisly that it be nought so; 
Passe over is an ease,' I say no more. 
This freissche May, that I spak of so yore, 
In warm wex hath empiyntod the cliket, 
That Jauuaiy bar of the sniale wiket, 

' Apparently a proverbial expressiion, similar to 'Of little moddlits 
comes great ease.' 

O o 'T 

^ (-T « 


By which into his gardyn ofte he went, 
And Damyan that knew al hir entent 
The cliket counterfeted prively; 
Ther nys no more to say, but hastily 
Som wonder by this cliket schal betyde, 
Which ye schal heeren, if ye wol abyde. 

O noble Ovyde, wel soth saistow, God woot, 
What sleight is it though it be long and hoot, 
That he nyl fynd it out in some manerel 
By Piramus and Thesbe may men leere ; 
Though thay were kept ful longe streyt over a), 
Thay ben accorded, rownyng tliurgh a wal, 
Ther no wight couthe han found out swich a sleight 
For now to purpos ; er that dayes eyght 
Were passed of the moneth of Juyl, bifille 
That January hath caught so gret a wille, 
Thorugh eggyng of his wyf, him for to pleye 
In his gardyn, and no wight but they tweye, 
That in a morwe unto this May saith he : 
' Rys up, my wif, my love, my lady fre ; 
The turtlis vois is herd,^ my douve sweet ; 
The wynter is goon, with his raynes wete. 
Come forth now with thin eyghen columbine. 
How fairer ben thy brestes than is the wyne. 
The gardyn is enclosed al aboute : 
Com forth, my swete spouse, out of doute, 
Thou hast me woimded in myn hert, o wyf j 
No spot in the knew I in al my lif. 
Com forth, and let us take oure desport, 
I ches the for my wyf and my comfort.' 
Such olde lewed wordes used he. 
On Damyan a signe made sche, 
That he schuld go bifoi'n with his cliket. 
This Damyan than hath opened the wiket, 
And in he stert, and that in such manere, 
That no wight it mighte see nor heere, 

Tliis phraseology is taken from the Song of Solomon. 


And stille he sect under a bussch. Anoou 

This January, a-s blynJ as is a stoon, 

With Mayus in his liond, and no vdght mo, 

Into this freische gardyn is ago, 

And clappid to the wiket sodeinly. 

' Now, wyf,' quod he, ' her nys but ye and I, 

Tliou art the creature that I best love; 

For by that Lord that sit in heven above, 

Lever ich had to dyen on a knyf, 

Than the oftende, decre trewe wyf. 

For Goddes sake, thenk how I the chees, 

Nought tor no coveytise douteles, 

But oonly for the love I liad to the. 

And though that I be old and may not se, 

Beeth trewe to me, and I wol telle yow why ; 

Thre thinges, cei-tes, schul ye wynne therby ; 

First, love of Crist, and to your self honour, 

And al m}Ti heritage, toun and tour. 

I give it yow, makith chartres as yow leste ; 

This schal ben doon to morw er sonne reste, 

So wisly God my soule briuge to blisse ! 

I pray yow first in covena\int ye me kisse. 

And though that I be jalous, wjt me nought;' 

Ye ben so deep empi-inted in my thought, 

That whan that I considi-e your beaute. 

And therwithal the xmlikly eelde of me, 

I may nought, certes, though I schulde dye, 

Forbere to ben out of your compauye 

For veiTay love ; this is withouten doute : 

Now kisse me, "wyf, and let ns rome aboute." 

This freissche ^lay, whan sche his wordes heixle, 

Benignely to January answerde, 

But tirst and forward sche bigan to wepe : 

* I have,' quod sche, ' a soule for to kepe 

As wel as ye, and also myn honour, 

And of my wifhod thilke tendre flour, 

' Do not impute It to me. 



Whicli that I have ensured in your hond, 

Whan that the prest to yow my body bond; 

Wherfor I wil answer in this manere, 

With the leve of yow, myn owen lord, so deere. 

I pray to God that never dawe the day, 

That I ne sterve, as foule as womman may, 

If ever I do unto my kyn that schame, 

Or elles I empaire so my name. 

That I be falsj and if I do that lak, 

Doth strepe me, and put me in a sak, 

And in the nexte ry ver do me drenche ; 

I am a gentil womman, and no wenche. 

Why speke ye thus? but men ben ever untrewe, 

And wommen ban reproef of yow ever newe. 

Ye have noon other countenaunce, I leve, 

But speke to us as of untrust and repreve. ' 

And with that word sche saugh wher Damyan 

Sat in the buissh, and coughen sche bigan ; 

And with hir fyngres signes made sche. 

That Damyan schuld clymb upon a tre, 

That charged was with fruyt, and up he went; 

For verrayly he knew al hir entent. 

And every signe that sche couthe make, 

Wei bet than January hir oughne make. 

For in a letter sche had told him al 

Of this matier, how he worche schal. 

And thus I lete him sitte in the pirie. 

And January and May romynge mirye. 

Bright was the day, and bliew the firmament ^ 
Phebus hath of gold his stremes douu i-sent 
To gladen every flour with his warmnesse; 
He was that tyme in Gemines, as I gesse, 
But litel fro his declinacioun 
Of Canker, Joves exaltacioun. 
And so bifel that brighte morwen tyde. 
That in that gardyn, in the ferther syde, 
Pluto, that is the kyng of fayerye, 
And many a lady in liis compaignie 


Folwyng his wif, the queene Preserpina/ 
Whiche that he ravesched out of Ethna, 
Whil that sche gadred floures in tlie mede, 
(In Chuidiau' ye may the story rode, 
How in his grisly carte he hir fette) ; 
This kino; of favTy than adoun him sette 
Upon a bench of turves freissh and greene, 
And right anoon tlius sayd he to his queene : 

* My wyf,' quod he, ' ther may no wight sny nay, 
Thexperieus so preveth every day, 
The tresoun which that womman doth to man. 
Ten hundrid thousand stories tellen I can 
Notixble of your untrouth and hrutelnesse. 
O Salamon, wys and richest of richesse, 
Fulfild of sapiens, and of worklly glorie, 
Ful worthy ben thy wordes to memorie 
To every wight, that wit and rcsoun can. 
Thus praysith he yit the bouute of man ; 
Among a thousand men yit fond I oon, 
But of alle wommen found I uever noon.* 
Thus saith the king, that knoweth your wikkednes.«e j 
That Jhesus,^^iws Sirac,* as I gesse, 
Ne spekith of yow but selde reverence. 
A wild fuyr and corrupt pestilence 
So falle upon your bocUes yit to night ! 
Ne see ye not this honurable knight? 
Bycause, alias ! that he is blynd and old, 
His owne man schal make him cokewold ; 

1 Harl. MS. reads :— 

. . . . ' Proserpine 
Ech after other as right as a lyne.' 

! CI. Claudianus was an Egyptian by birth, and wrote in the reign 
of Tluodosius and his sons, Arcadius and llonorius. The work here 
alluded to is his poem, De Unptu Prostrpiiicc. lie has also written Df 
Bello Getico, and many epistles and shorter pieces. Coleridge sayj 
that he is ' projjerly the first of the moderns, or at least the tran- 
sitional link between the classic and tlie gothic modes of thought.' 
■^Table Talk: ^ Eccles. vii. a8. 

* .lesus, the son of Sirach, the writer of the apocryphal book ot 


Loo, wher he sitt, the lecchour, in the tre ! 
Now wol I graunten, of my majeste, 
Unto this olde blinde worthy knight, 
That he schal have agein his eyghen sight, 
Whan that liis wyf wol do him vilonye ; 
Than schal he knowe al her harlotrye, 
Bothe in reproef of her and other mo.' 
' Ye schal r quod PreserjDine, ' and wol ye sol 
Now by my modres Ceres ^ soule I swere, 
That I schal give hir suffisaunt answers. 
And alle wommen after for hir sake ; 
That though thay be in any gult i-take. 
With face bold thay schul hemself excuse, 
And bere hem doun that wolde hem accuse. 
For lak of answer, noon of hem schal dyen. 
Al had ye seyn a thing with bothe your yen,' 
Yit schul we wymmen visage it hardily. 
And wepe and swere and chide subtilly, 
That ye schul ben as lewed as ben gees; 
What i-ekkith me of your auctoriteesi 
I wot wel that this Jew, this Salamon, 
Fond of us wommen fooles many oon ; 
But though he ne fond no good womman, 
Yit hath ther founde many another man 
Wommen ful trewe, ful good, and vertuous ; 
Witnesse on hem that dwelle in Cristes hous. 
With martirdom thay proved hir constaunce.' 
The Romayn gestes* eek make remembraunce 

' Harl. MS., Sires. 
- Harl. MS. — ' Al had a man nci/n a thhir; with hothe his yen.' 
3 Proserpine here indicates the true source of the respect with which 
women were treated in tlie middle ages, to which cliivalrous feelinj^ 
modern civilization owes, in great measure, its superiority over the 
old. Yet when Lydgate founds tlie claim of women toouriespect 
upon tlie fortitude they displayed in the early ages of Christianity, and 
upon the purity and virtue of their lives, Warton turns liim into ri(ii- 
cule for not rather alleging ' their beauty, amiable accomplishments,' 
&c., by which they ' refine our sensibilities.' 

^ [The Gesta Romanorum certainly contains the story of Lucretia, but for 
the most part the tales hardly sustain tlie character here given to thera.J 


Of many a veraay trowe wjt' also. 

But, sire, be uoiiglit wrath, al be it so, 

Though that he s;iyd he fond no good woniman, 

T pi'ay yow tak the sentens of the man ; 

He lueute thus, that in sovereign bounte 

Nis noon but God, that sit in Trinite. 

Ey, for verrey God that nys but oon, 

What make ye so moche of Sahimon? 

What thougli he made a temple, Goddes hous] 

What though he were riche and glorious? 

So made he eek a temple of fals godis, 

How might he do a thing that more forbod is? 

Parde, als fair as ye his name emplastre, 

He was a lecchour and an ydolastre, 

And in his eelde he vcn"ay God forsook ; 

And if that God no hadde (as saith the book) 

[-spai-ed him for his fadres sake,^ he scholde 

Have lost his regno rather than he wolde. 

i sette right nought of the vilonye, 

That ye of wommcn write, a boterflie ; 

I am a womman, needes most I speke, 

Or elles swelle tyl myn herte breke. 

For syn he sayd that we ben jangleresses, 

As ever hool I moote brouke my tresses,* 

J schal not spare for no curtesye 

To speke him harm, that wold us vilonye.' 

' Dame,' quod this Pluto, ' be no lenger wroth, 

I give it up: Tiut sith I swore myn oth, 

That I wil graunte him his sight agein. 

My word schal stonde, I warne yow certeyn ; 

I am a kyng, it sit me nought to lye.' 

' And I,' quod sche, ' am queen of faierie. 

Hir answer schal sche have, I undertake ; 

Let us no mo wordes herof make. 

> I Kings xi. it. 
■' The sea goddesses in the classics, and the mermaids and other 
fairies in the popular mythology, are represented as geuerallj b'vn 
combing their hair. Hence, i^erliaps, Proserpine's oatli. 


Forsoth I "wol no lenger yow contrarie,' 
Now let us turne agajrn to Januarye, 
That in. this gardyn with this faire May 
Syngeth, ful merier than the papinjay, 
' Yow love I best, and schal, and other noon.' 
So long about the aleys is he goon, 
Til he was come agaynes thilke pirie, 
Wher as this Damyan sittith ful mirye 
On heigh, among the freische levyes greene. 
This freissche May, that is so bright and scheene, 
Gan for to syke, and sayd, ' Alias my syde ! 
Now, sir,' quod sche, ' for aught that may bityde. 
I most han of the peres that I see. 
Or I moot dye, so sore longith me 
To eten of the smale peris greene ; 
Help for hir love that is of heven queene ! 
I telle yow wel a womman in my plyt* 
May have to Iruyt so gret an appetji; 
That sche may deyen, but sche it have.' 

* Alias !' quod he, ' that I nad heer a knave 
That couthe climbe, alias ! alias ! ' quod he, 

* J^'or I am blynd.' ' Ye, sire, no foi's,' quod sche; 
' But wolde ye vouchesauf, for Goddes sake, 

The piry inwith your armes for to take, 
(For wel I woot that ye mystruste me) 
Than schold I clymbe wel y-nough,' quod sche, 
' So I my foot might set upon your bak.' 
' Certes,' quod he, ' theron schal be no lak, 
Might I yow helpe with myn herte blood.' 
He stovipith doun, a)id on his bak sche stood, 
And caught hir by a twist," and up sche goth. 
(Ladys, I pray yow that ye be not wroth, 
I can not glose, I am a rude man :) 
And sodeinly anoon this Damyan 

' An allusion to the well-known vulgar error about the longings ol 
pregnant women. 

' I.e. a twig. 


Grtin pullen up the smok, and in he throng. ' 

And whan that Pluto saujjh this jirete wronjr. 
To January lio gaf agayn his siglit, 
'Ami made him see aa wel as ever he might. 
And wlian lie thus had caught his sight again, 
Ne was ther never man of thing so fayn ; 
But on his wyf his thought was evermo. 
Up to the tree he kest his eyghen tuo, 
And seigh that Damyan his -wjf had di-essid 
Tn Avliich manor it may not ben expressid, 
But if I wolde speke uncurteisly. 
And up he gaf a roryng and a cry, 
As doth tlie moder whan the child schal dye ; 
'Out! help! alias! haiTow!' he gan to crie; 
' O stronge lady stoure, what dos thow?' 

And sche answerith: ' Sire, what eylith yow? 
Have paciens and resoun in your mynde, 
I have yow holi)en on botlie your eyen blyndo. 
Up peril of ray soule, I schal not lyen. 
As me was taught to hele with your yen, 
Was nothing bet for to make yow see, 
Thau stroggle with a man upon a tree ; 
God woot, I dede it in ful good entent.' 
' Stroggle ! ' quod he, ' ye, algat in it went. 
God give yow bothe on schames deth to dyen I 
He swyved the ; I saiigh it with myn yen ; 
And ellcs be I honged by the hals.' 
' Than is,' quod sche, ' my medicine fals. 
For certeynly, if that ye mighten see, 
Ye wold not say tho wordes unto me. 
Ye han som glymsyng, and no parfyt sight.' 
* I se,' quod he, ' as wel as ever I might, 

' Tyrwhitt remarks that after this verse, the printed editions 
(except Caxton z. and Tynson i, 3) liave eipht others of the lowest 
and most siipertliioii.s ribaldry, llotli he and .Mr. Wriplit reject them, 
together with some others of the same character that occur a little 
farther on, as not being found in any .MS. of autliority. 

- Tliese two lines, not being in tlie Ilarl. MS., are given from 


(Thankid be God) with 1:)othe myn yen tuo, 

And by my troutb me thought he did the so.' 

' Ye mase, mase, goode sir,' quod sche ; 

' This thank have I for I have maad yow see ; 

Alias !' quod sche, ' that ever I was so kynde.' 

' Now, dame,' quod he, ' let al passe out of mynde ; 

Com doun, my leef, and if I have myssayd, 

God help me so, as I am evel appayd. 

But by my faders soule, I wende have seyn, 

How that this Damyan had by the leyn. 

And that thy smok had layn upon thy brest.' 

' Ye, sire,' quod sche, ' ye may wene as yow lest ; 

But, sire, a man that wakith out of his slep. 

He may not sodeynly wel take keep 

Upon a thing, ne seen it parfytly. 

Til that he be adawed verrayly. 

Right so a man, that long hath blynd i-be, 

He may not sodeynly so wel i-se. 

First whan the sight is newe comen agayn. 

As he that hath a day or tuo i-sayn. 

Til that your sight y-stablid be a while, 

Ther may ful many a sighte yow bigile. 

Beth war, I pray yow, for, by heven king, 

Ful many man wenith for to se a thing. 

And it is al another than it semeth; 

He that mysconceyveth he mysdemeth.'^ 

And with that word sche leep doun fro the tre. 
This January who is glad but hel 
He kissith hir, and clippith hir ful ofte. 
And on hir wombe he strokith hir ful softe ; 
And to his paleys hom he hath hir lad. 
Now, goode men, I pray yow to be glad- 
Thus endith her my tale of Januarye, 
God blesse us, and his moder seinte Marie ! 

' He whose senses convey an incorrect idea to his mind, cannot 
form a correct judgment. 



' T? Y ! Goddes mercy !' s;iyd our Hoste tho, 

-L^ ' Now such a wyf I pray God keep me fia 
Lo, "whicbe sleightes and subtilitees 
In wommen ben; for ay as busy as bees 
Ben thay us seely men for to desceyve, 
And from a soth over wol thay weyve. 
By this Marchaundes tale it proveth wel. 
But douteles, as trewe as eny steel 
1 have a wyf, thou£;h that sche pore be; 
But of hir tonge a hibbyng schrewe is sche ; 
And yit sche hath an heep of vices mo. 
Therof no fors; let alle such thinges go. 
But wite ye what? in counseil be it seyd, 
Me rewith sore I am unto hir teyd; 
And if I scholde reken every vice, 
Which that sche hatli, T wis I were to nyce ; 
And cause wliy, it schuld reported be 
And told to hir of som of this meyne, 
(Of whom it needitli not for to declare, 
Syn wommen connen oute such chaffare) ;* 
And eek my witte suflisith nought therto 
To tellen al; wherfor my tale is do.''^ 

' Sir Squier, com forth, if that your wille be, 
And say us a tale of love, for cex"tes ye 
Connen theron as moche as ony man.' 

' Nay, sire,' c^uod he ; * but I wil say as I can 
With herty wil, for I wil not rebelle 
Against your wille ; a tale wil I telle, 
Have me excused if that I speke amys ; 
My wil is good ; and thereto my tale Ib this.' 

' Tyrwhitt is at a loss to understand this parenthesis, but it 
■eems to mean, ' Of whose vices I will not speak; for women, of whom 
there are many in this comp:iny, know well how to divul/je it.' 

- [A division should probably bo m;ule hero; seo Scheme of tho Order of 
the Tales, vol. ii. pp. ;5i-J54J In the next line but one the Liarl. M6. 
omits of love. 



[This tale, to which Warton assigns the first place in the 
collection, is apparently founded upon a story of Arabian 
origin, ennobled, no doubt, by Chaucer in the process of 
transplantation. Almost all the incidents and circumstances 
are found scattered in different Arabian tales, though not 
combined in any one. It possesses the fascination of one of 
the Arabian Nights, deepened in human interest; the 
special attributes of Oriental fiction are faithfully preserved 
in its gorgeous details and fantastical enchantments ; and it 
is coloured throughout by those peculiar characteristics of 
Eastern literature which may be traced to the genius and 
religion of the people. Brilliancy of fancy the Easterns 
certainly possess, but it is the fancy of the opium-eater; 
their highest aspirations never contemplate any enjoyment 
beyond that of sensuality or power. Supernatural influences 
enter largely into the machinery of Eastern romance; but 
they assume the form of magic, and are attached to material 
charms, as in the brazen horse, the mirror and the ring of 
this tale. The Oriental fabulists sympathise only with success ; 
the dignity of suffering virtue finds no responsive chord in 
their hearts, which are of the earth, earthy. The main 
differences between the literatures of the East and West may 
be partially estimated by a compai-ison between this un- 
finished tale and the story of Constance, or The Romance 
of the Saint Graal. The latter are Impressed with a feeling 
of responsibility, and of the immutability of the law of right 
and wrong, which gives an elevation even to their most 
extravagant flights. Such moral elevation Is sought for in 
vain In Eastern romance. Apart, however, from the radical 
defects of this style of fiction, its want of aim and mere 
sensuousness. The Sq^uyeres Tale displays pre-eminently 
Chaucer's marvellous powers o^ picture-ivriting. The mag- 
nificent festivities of a feudal castle, heightened by some 
glittering touches borrowed from a Saracenic palace, are 


prodiuoa befort the mind's eye with startling reality and 

^jor^'eous efl'ect. Tyrwhitt and Warton both follow ]Milton 

in tliinkincf that Chaucer lell this talc 'half-told;' but, from 

the followint; lines in The Temple of Glass, by Hawes, a 

poet of the reign of llenry VII., it would appear that in his 

time a continuation was in existence, whether by Chaucer or 

one of his imitators there are no means of ascertaining. 

The poet describes the ornaments of the Temple: — 

An J uppcrniore men depiiiiten might ^ee 
Howe, with lierriiip, poodlie Canace, 
Of every foiile the leden and the sons' 
C'ouKl understand, as she them walked among. 
And how her brother so often holpen was 
In his mischefe, by the steed of brass. 

In T/ie Squj/ercs Tale, as it at present exists, we have no 

account of Canacc's brother's ' mischiefes,' nor of the assistance 

he received from the enchanted steed. Tyrwhitt gives the 

following sketch of what he supposes to be the intended sequel 

of the story, in which he difl'ers essentially from Spenser's 

continuation. * The outline, therefore, of the unfmished part 

of this tale, according to my idea, is nearly this ; the conclusion 

of the story of T/ie Faucon, 

By mediation of Camballus, 

with the help of the ring ; the conquests of Cambuscan; the 

winning of Theodora by Algarsif, with the assistance of 

the horse of brass; and the marriage of Canace to some 

knight, who was first obliged to fight for her with her ttco 

brethren; a method of courtship ver}' consonant to the spirit 

of ancient chivalry.'] 

4 T San-ay, in the lond of Tartary, 
-^ Ther dwelled a kyng that werryed Russy, 
Thurgh wliicli ther deyed many a douglity man; 
This uubil kyug was cleped C'amliyuskau,' 
Wliieh in his tyme was of so gret renoun, 
That ther nas nowhcr in no regioun 

I Tlii- name (cqiiivalont to 7A-\viU includes the mon.irch's title. 
The Uarl. and Umsd. .MSS. ditTer IVuni the ordinary reading, ''ambuikan, 
which Milton folluwud iu U I'cntiruso. 


So excellent a lord in alle thing : 

Him lakked nought that longed to a kyng. 

As of the secte of which that he was born, 

He kept his lawe to which he was sworn j^ 

And therto he was hardy, wys, and riclie, 

And pitous and just, and alway y-liche, 

Soth of his word, benign and honurable ; 

Of his corage as eny centre stable; 

Yong, freisch, and strong, in armes desirous, 

As eny bachiler of al his hous. 

A fair jjerson he was, and fortunat, 

And kepte so wel his real astat, 

That ther was nowher such a ryal man. 

This noble kyng, this Tartre, this Cambynskan, 

Hadde tuo sones by Eltheta his wyf. 

Of which the eldest highte Algarsyf,* 

That other was i-cleped Camballo. 

A doughter had this worthi king also. 

That yongest was, and liighte Canace ; 

But for to telle yow al hir beaute, 

It lith not on my tonge, ne my connyng, 

I dar nought undertake so heigh a thing; 

Myii Englissh eek is insufficient. 

It moste be a rethor excellent 

That couth his colours longyng for that art, 

If he schold hir discryve in eny part ; 

I am non such, I mot speke as I can. 

And so bifel it, that this Cambynskan 
Hath twenty wynter born his dyademe ; 
As he was wont fro yer to yer, I deme, 
He leet the fest of his nativite 
Don cry en, thurghout Sarray his cite, 
The last Idus of March, after the yeer. 
Phebus the sonne was joly and cleer, 

' He kept the laws of that form of rch"gion to which he was sworn 
or bound. 

2 Tlie Harl. MS. gives Algaryf for Algarsyf, and SamhaUo for 


For he was neigh his exaltaciouii 
III Martes face, and in his niansioun 
In Aries, the colcrik, the liote signe. 
Ful histy was the wedir and benigue, 
For which the foules ageiu the Sonne scheene, 
What for the sesoun and for the yonge gi'eeue, 
Ful lowdc song in here alfecciouns, 
Hem semed have geten hem protecciouus 
Agens the swerd of wyuter kene and cold. 
This Cambynskan, of wliich I have told, 
In royal vesture, sittyng on his deys 
With dyadeni, ful heigh in his paleys; 
And held liis fest solcmpne and so riche, 
That in this woi-lde was there noon it liche. 
Of wliich if I schal tellen al tharray, 
Than wold it occupie a someres day; 
And eek it needith nought for to devyse 
At every cours the ordi-e and the servyse. 
I wol nat tellen of her straunge sewes, 
Ne of her swannes,* ne here heroun-sewes. 
Ek in that lond, as tellen knightes olde, 
Ther is som mete that is ful deynte holde, 
That in this lond men reccli of it but smal; 
Ther is no man it may reporten al. 
I wel not tarien you, for it is pryme,' 
And for it is no fruyt, but los of tyme, 
Unto my purpos I wol have my recours. 
That so bifelle after the thridde cours, 
Whil that this kyng sit thus in his nobleye, 
Herkyng his mynstrales her thinges pleye 

1 The swan was formiTly a favourite disJi. It is still considered 
a great delicacy in Norfolk, and the fat cspi'cially is as much esteemed 
%s that of venison by Ka.<t Anglian gourmets. The old Norwich 
corporation used to proceed annually down the river in their state 
barges to Yarmouth, sicnn-hoppimj — that is, catching and marking 
the young birds — a custom still followed by tl\e corporation of London. 
From this custom we drrive the tavern sign of the Swan with Two 
Necks, a corruption of Swan with fwo Nicks, the marks made by the 
Lord Mayor on the swans on the Thames. Herons may now sometimes 
be seen in the Norwich game-market. ' See anti , p. 118, note 2. 

VOL. I. 2 H 


Byforne him atte boord deliciously/ 
In atte halle dore al sodeynly 
Ther com a knight upon a steed of bras, 
And in his hond a brod myrour of glas; 
Upon his thumb he had of gold a ryng/ 
And by his side a naked swerd hangyng : 
And up he rideth to the heyghe bord.* 
In al the halle ne was ther spoke a word, 
For mervayl of this knight ; him to byholde 
Ful besily they wayten yong and olde. 

This straiinge knight that cam thus sodeynly, 
Al armed sauf his heed ful richely, 
Salued the kyng and queen, and lordes alle 
By ordre, as they seten into halle, 
With so heigh reverens and observaunce, 
As wel in speche as in contynaunce. 

1 See ante, p. 438, note 5. ' 

^ The ring was a symbol of great sigHificance in the middle ages, 
and was frequently of large size, and worn on the thumb. 

3 The palaces of the early Norman kings and nobility consisted of 
one large oblong hall, like our college halls, at one end of which was 
a raised platform, from which there was a door into a cellar, or 
buttery, or spence; and over that a sleeping apartment for the great 
lord and his family. The hall was furnished with long tables, and 
with a 'heyghe bord' on the dais, at which the seigneur dined, and 
was strewn with rushes, which at night served for a bed for his nume- 
rous retainers. This was the type of all the mediaeval dwellings ; but 
as refinement advanced, the number of private sleeping apartments 
would, of course, be increased. See Domestic Architecture of tlie 
Middle Ages. A horseman might easily ride up such a hall, without 
causing any disarrangement of the furniture, which consisted only of 
boards on tressels, and a few forms and joint-stools. Thus, in Percy's 
fine ballad of King Estmere: — 

' Kynge Estmere he light off his steede, 
Up at the fayre hall board. 
The frothe that cam from his brydle bitte 
Light on King Bremor's beard,' 
as he sat at dinner. Thus, also, in the Life of Alexander, by Adam 
Davie, who flourished about the year 1 3 1 2 : — 
' To the paleis they gon ride. 
And fond thisfeste in all pruyde; 
Forth goth Alesaunder saun fable 
Kyght to thee heygh table.' 


That Gaweyn* -svith his olde curtesy e, 
They he were come agein out of fayrye, 
Ne couthe him nouglit amende with uo word. 
And after this, bilbru the highe bord 
He with a manly vois sayd this message, 
After the forme used in liis langage, 
Withouten vice of sillabil or letter. 
And for his tale schulde seme the better, 
Accordaunt to his wordes was his cheere. 
As techeth art of speche''' hem that it leere. 
Al be it that I can nat sowue his style, 
Ne can nat clymben over so heigh a style,* 
Yit say I this, as to comun entent. 
Thus moche amounteth al that ever he ment, 
If it so be that I have it in mynde. 

He sayd : ' The kyng of Arraby and of Yude, 
My liege lord, on this solempne day 
Saluteth you as he best can or may, 
And sendeth you, in honour of your feste, 
By me, that am redy, at al his he^te, 
This steede of bras, that esily and wel 
Can in the space of o day naturel, 
(This is to say, in four and twenty houres) 
Wher so yow lust, in droughthe or in schoures, 
Beren your body into every place. 
To which your herte wilneth for to pace, 
"Withouten wem of you, thurgh foul and fair.* 
Or if you lust to flee as heigh in thair 

' The Uarl. MS. reads Eweii, probably from the scribe having con- 
founded the two heroes Ywaiiie and Gawaine in tlie romance of that 
name ; but Gawaine is evidently the person meant, for he is always con- 
sidered the model of courtesy in the court of Arthur, as in Percy? 
ballad :— 

' Then bespake him Ser Gawaine, 
That was ever a frentle knight.' 

2 'It was the boast of one of their historians that the Norman gentlc-- 
men were orators from their cradle.' — Macaulay, Hist. Kug., vol. i. 

s This appears to be a pun on the word slyU. 

* The horse and mirror will remind the reader of the enchanted 
carpet and perspective glass given to Prince Ahmed by the fairy I'ari 
lianou, in The Arabian Aiylds. 

2 H 2 


As doth an egle, whan him list to sore, 
This same steede schal here you evermore 
Withoute harm, til ye be ther yow leste, 
(Though that ye slepen on his bak or reste), 
And tome agein, with wrything of a pjni. 
He that it wrought, he cowthe many a gyn ; 
He wayted many a consteUacloun, 
Er he had do this operacioun, 
And knew ful many a seaP and many a bond. 

' This mirour eek, that I have in myn bond, 
Hath such a mighte, that men may in it see 
When ther schal faUe eny advei'site 
Unto your regne, or to your self also, 
And openly, who is your frend or to. 
And over al this, if eny lady bright 
Hath set hir hert on eny maner wight, 
If he be fals, sche schal his tresoun see. 
His newe love, and his subtilite. 
So openly, that ther schall nothing hyde. 
Wherfor ageins this kisty somer tyde 
This mirour and this ryng, that ye may see, 
He hath send to my lady Canacee, 
Your excellente doughter that is heere. 

' The vertu of this ryng, if ye wol heere, 
Is this, that who so lust it for to were 
Upon hir thomb, or in hir pi;rs to here, 
Ther is no foul that fleeth under the heven. 
That sche ne schal understonden his steven, 
And know his menyng openly and pleyn, 
And answer him in his langage ageyn ; 

' Warton says on this line, ' Seal may mean a talismanic sigil 
used in astrology. Or the hermetic seal used in chemistry. Or con- 
nected with bfmd, may sis,'nify contracts made witli spirits in chemical 
operations. But all these belong to the Arabian fthilosophy. See 
d'Herbelot, Diet. Orient., pp. 8 lo, looS.' The east was always the land 
of magic, which was imjjorted into Western Europe by the Cru- 
saders. They had unhappily forgotten the example of the early 
Christians, who, on their conversion, burned their magical books. 
Acts xix. 19. 


Aud every gvas that groweth upon roote 
Scho schal eek know, to whom it wol do boote, 
Al be hio woundes never so deep and wyde. 

' This naked swerd, that liangeth hy my side, 
Such vertu hath, that what man that it smyte, 
Thurghout his armur it wol kerve and byte, 
Were it as thikke as a brannclicd ook ; 
And what man is i-wound<tl with the strook 
Schal never be hool, til that you lust of grace 
To strok him with the plat in thilke place 
Ther he is hurt; this is as moche to seyn. 
Ye moote with the platte swerd agein 
Stroke him in the wound, and it wol close. 
This is the verray soth withouten glose, 
It faiJleth nought, whil it is in your hold.' 

And whan this knight thus had his tale told, 
He rit out of the halle, and doun he light. 
His steede, which that schon as sonne bright, 
Stant in the court as stille as eny stoon. 
This knight is to his chambre lad anoon, 
And is imarmed, and to mete i-sett. 
This presentz ben ful richely i-fett, 
This is to sayn, the swerd and the myrrour, 
And born anon unto the highe tour, 
With cei-tein officers ordcynd therfore; 
And unto Canace the ryng is bore 
Solenipnely, ther sche s)i; atte table ; 
But sikerly, withouten eny fable, 
The hors of bras, that may nat be remewed, 
It stant, as it were to the ground i-glewed ; 
Ther may no man out of the place it dryve 
For noon engyn of wyndas' or polj^e; 
And cause why, for they can nought the craft. 
And therfor ii; th(! ]>lace thei have it laft. 
Til tliat the knight hath taught hem the mancro 
To voyden him, as ye schul after heere. 

• Harl. MS.,u^rfjm5r. 


Greet was the pres that swarmed to and fro 
To gauren on this liors that stondeth so; 
For it so high^ was, and so brod and long, 
So wel proporcioned to be strong, 
Kight as it were a steed of Lumbardye;* 
Therto so horsly, and so quyk of ye, 
As it^ a gentU Poyleys courser were; 
For certes, fro his tayl unto his eere 
Nature ne art ne couthe him nought amende 
In no degre, as al the poepel wende. 
But evermore her moste wonder was, 
How that he couthe goon, and was of bras; 
It was of fayry, as the poeple semed. 
Diverse peple diversly they demed ; 
As many hedes, as many wittes been. 
They murmured, as doth a swarm of been, 
And made skiles after her fantasies, 
Rehersyng of the olde poetries, 
And seyden it was i-like the Pegase,* 
The hors that hadde wynges for to fle ; 
Or elles it was the Grekissch hoi's Synon,* 
That broughte Troye to destruccioun, 
A-s men may in the olde gestes rede. 
' Myn hert,' quod oon, ' is evermore in drede, 
I trow som men of armes ben therinne, 
That schapen hem this cite for to wynne ; 
It were good that such thing were knowe.' 
Another rowned to his felaw lowe. 
And sayde : ' It lyth, for it is rather lik 
An apparence maad by som magik, 

1 Harl. MS., wyd. 

- The rich plains of Lombard/ produced a breed of strong heavy 
horses, like our Lincolnshire dray-horse, well suited to carry a knight 
in heavy armour. The steed of brass combined the bone and power ol 
this heavy war-horse with the spirit and breeding of a ' gentil Poyleys 
courser,' that is, a thorough-bred horse of Apulia, French Poille. 

s Tlip Ihul. MS. reads i/', which does not make sense. It is from 
Tyrwhitt. ■• Margin of Harl. MS, equus per/aseus. 

^ [Tlie text should be ' the Grekes hors Sinon,' i.e., the liorse of Sinon the 
Greek, a usual Middle-English idiom.— \V. W. S.] 


As jogeloui-s' pleyen at this festes grete.' 

Of soudry thoughtes thus they jangle and trete, 

As leweil peple demeth comunly 

Of thinges that beu maad more subtily 

Than they can in her lewednes comprehende, 

They dii nn n Ljladly to the badder ende. 

And soiu ui' hciu wondi'cd on the niiiTour, 

That born was up into the maister tour/ 

How men might in it suche thinges se. 

Another answerd, and sayd, it might wel be 

Katurelly by composiciouns 

Of angels," and of heigh reflexiouns; 

And sayde that in Rome* was such oon. 

They speeke of Alhazen* and Vitilyon, 

And Aristotle, that writen in her lyves 

Of queynte myrrours and prospectyves, 

As knowen they that han her bokes herd. 

And other folk have wondred on the swerd, 

That -wolde passe thorughout every thing; 

And fel in speche of Telophus the kyng, 

And of Achilles for his queynte spere, 

For he couthe with it bothe hele and dere,* 

Right in such wise as men may with the swerd, 

Of which right now ye have your selven herd. 

1 See ante, p. }$^, note 5. 

- The chief tower, called the donjon. •' Angles. 

* An allusion to a maRical image said to have been placed by tlie 
enchanter Virgil in the niidUle of Kome, which communicated to the 
Emperor Titus all the secret olTenrea committed every day in the city. 
Ge^ta Roman., c. Ivii. The poet was invested with the character of u 
necromancer, or wizard, because the heathen mythology enters so 
largely into his writings. 

s titiT\.yiS.ioT AUiazen reads Alcnjt. Alhnzcni et VitcllionL^ opera 
are extant, printed at Basil in i57s. The first is supposed by his 
editor to have lived about a.d. i 100, and the second in a.d. 1270. — T. 

« Telephus, the son of Hercules and Auge.was wounded by Achilles 
with his speor, and healed by the application of some rust from tlie 
same weapon. I'etronius, in his epigram De Tdeplw, exactly describe* 
the qualities of Cambynskan's magic sword :—' Umie d:itum est vulnus, 
contigit iude salus.' [The allusion is in Ovid, whence Chaucer tool; it. 


They speeken of sondry hardyng of metal, 
And speken of medicines therwithal, 
And how and whan it schulde harded be, 
Which is unknowe algat unto me. 
Tho speeken they of Canacees ryng, 
And seyden alle, that such a wonder thing 
Of craft of rynges herd they never noon, 
Sauf that he Moyses and kyng Salamon^ 
Hadden a name of connyng in such art. 
Thus seyen the peple, and drawen hem apart.* 
But natheles som seiden that it was 
Wonder thing to make of feme aisschen glas,' 
And yit is glas novight like aisschen of feme, 
But for they han i-knowen it so feme ; 
Therfor cesseth her janglyng and her wonder. 
As sore wondred som of cause of thondei', 
On ebbe and flood, on gossomer, and on myst. 
And on alle thing, til that the cause is wist. 
Thus jangien they, and demen and devyse. 
Til that the kyng gan fro his bord arise. 

Phebus hath left the angel merydyonal, 
And yit ascendyng was a best roial, 
The gentil Lyoun, with his Aldryan,* 
Whan that this gentil kyng, this Cambynskan, 
Bos fro his bord, ther as he sat ful hye ; 
Biforn him goth ful lowde menstralcye, 

1 It is easily seen how JMoses and Solomon came to be ranked among 
magicians. Moses was ' learned in all the learning of the Egyptians ;' 
but the Egyptian learning, like all Eastern philosophies, if they can 
be dignified by the name, was a form of magic and soothsaying. 
Exodus, passim. Solomon, in his old age, served tlie false gods Ash- 
toreth, Chemosh, and Molech, whose worship consisted in a most 
impure and cruel necromancy. 

« Harl. MS. :— 

' The people on every part.' 

■' The peoi)le said. This miraculous sword, glass, and ring, arc not 
more wonderful than the manufacture of glass, which is made of the 
aslus of fern, and other jihuits, and sand, and yet is like none of it3 
component parts ; nor would any one have guessed of what it is com- 
posed, had they not been so far previously informed. 
* Harl. MS., Adryan. 


Til he cam to his ch;iml>re of iiarcnientz,' 
Tlier as thor were divers instrumcntz, 
That is y-like an heven for to heere. 

Now (hiuiicen lusty Venus chiicb-en decrej 
For in the tissch her lady sat liil heyghe/ 
And loketh on hem with a frendly eyghe. 
This noble kyng is set upon his trone; 
This strauu^e knight is fet to him fnl sone, 
And in the dauiice he gan with Canace. 
Her is the revel and the jolyte, 
That is not able a dnl man to de\-yse; 
He most have knowe love and his servise, 
And ben a festly man, as freisch as May, 
That schulde you dexyse such array. 
Who couthe telle you the forme of daunce 
So uncouth, and so freischc countinaunce, 
Such subtil lokyng of dissimilynges, 
For drede of jalous folk apparcey^yngesl 
No man but Lauucolet,^ and he is deed. 
Theifore I passe over al this lustyheed, 
I say no more, but in this joljiiesse 
I leto hem, til men to soper hem dresse. 
The styAvard byt the spices for to hye 
And eek the wyn, in al this melodye; 
Thes usschers and thcs squyei-s ben agon, 
The spices and the wyn is come anoon ; 
They eet and drank, and whan this had an ende, 
Unto the temple, as resoun was, they wende ; 

' Chamhrr (if parennii.t is translated by Cotprave the presence- 
cliainl)er, and III ile pnrnneng, a bed of state. Pan meiu! originally siiiii- 
lied all sorts of ornaincntal furniture or clntlic'i. from /tarer, to 
adorn. See ante, p. 169, and Ug. of (1. ir. Dido, verse i8x :— 

'To dauncin)? clianibres. iul of p.-ircmente8. 
Of riclie lieildis and of jovementes, 
Tliis Knea-t U Icdde after the nicte.' 
The Italian"! have the same exjiression, Isl. di Conn. Triilint.. lib. iii. : — 
'II rontflice, ritornato alia canwra de' jtaramenti co' Cardinal!.' — T. 
* See antr, p. )i% note 2. 

' I.aunci'lut intrigued witli Queen Goenever, and was tlierefore skilled 
in such arts. 


The sei-vise doon, they soupen al by day.' 
What needeth you to rehersen her array? 
Ech man wot wel, that a kynges feste 
Hath plente, to the lest and to the meste, 
And deyntees mo than ben in my knowyng. 
At after souper goth this noble kyng 
To see this hors of bras, with al his route 
Of lordes and of ladyes him aboute. 
Swich wondryng was ther on this hors of bras, 
That seth this grete siege of Troye was, 
Ther as men wondrid on an hors also, 
Ne was ther such a \vondryng as was tho. 
But fynally the kyng asked the knight 
The vertu of this courser, and the might, 
And prayd him tellen of his governaunce. 
The hors anoon gan for to trippe and daunce. 
Whan that the knight leyd hand upon his rayne, 
And sayde, ' Sir, ther is nomore to sayne, 
But whan you lust to ryde any where, 
Ye moote trille a pyn, stant in his ere, 
Which I schal telle you betwen us two, 
Ye moste nempne him to what place also, 
Or what countre you luste for to ryde. 
And whan ye come ther you lust abyde. 
Bid him descende, and trille another pynne, 
(For therin lith theffet of al the gjTine) 
And he wol doun descend and do your wille, 
And in that place he wol abyde stille ; 
Though al the world had the contrary swore, 
He schal nat thennes be i-throwe ne bore. 
Or if you lust to bid him thennes goon, 
Trille this pyn, and he wol vanyssh anoon 
Out of the sight of every maner wight. 
And come agein, be it by day or night. 
Whan that you lust to clepen him agaya 
lu such a gyse, as I schal yow sayn 

See ante, p. J94, note 3. 


Betwixe you and me, iiud thcrfor soone, 
Byd whan you lust, ther nys nomor to donne. 
Euformed wlian the kyng was of the knight, 
And liad conceyved in his wit aright 
The maner and the forme of al this thing, 
Ful glad and blith, this noble doughty kyng 
Repeyiyng to his revel, as biforn, 
The l)ridel is unto the tour i-boru. 
And kept among his jewels leef and deere; 
The hors vanyscht, I not in what manere, 
Out of her sight, ye get nomore of me ; 
But thus I late him in his jolite 
This Cambinskan his lordes festeyng, 
Til wel neigh the day bigan to spryng. 


THE norice of digestioun, the sleep, 
Gan to hem^ wynk, and bad of him take keep, 
That mirthe and labour wol have his rest;' 
And with a galpyng'' mouth hem alle he keste, 
And sayd, that it was tyme to lye doun, 
For blood was in his dominacioun : 
' Cherischeth blood, natures trend,' quod he. 
They thankyn him galpyug, by two and thre; 
And every wight gan drawe him to his rest. 
As sleep hem bad, they took it for the best. 

' Hi'm has been substituted from Tyrwhitt, as giving a better sense 
than him, the reading of the Hurl. MS. 

- Of tlii.s line there are several readings; that given in the text 
ftom the Harl. MS. is rejected by Mr. Wri;:ht for moche mete and 
laliour, which seems neither to give so good a sense, nor to agree with 
the metre. The meaning appears obvious, though Tynvhitt thinks 
otlierwise. What can be more to the purpose than to say that mirth 
and labour equally require rest ? 

■' There is something excessively grotesque and highly characteristic 
of mediaeval taste in the person iticat ion of .Sleep kissing the revellers 
with yawning mouth, and jetting them all yawning : and their thank- 
ing him in yawns 'by one, by two, by three" — all gradually dropping 
in, and joining in a grand yawning chorus. 


Here dremes schul not now be told for me ; 
Ful were here lieedes of fumosite, 
That canseth drem, of which ther is no charge. 
They slepen til that^ it was prime large," 
The nioste part, but it were Canace ; 
Sche was ful mesurable,^ as wommen be. 
For of hir fader had sche take hir leve 
To go to reste, soon after it was eve; 
Hir luste not appalled for to be, 
Ne on the morwe unfestly for to se ; 
And kept hir fii-ste sleep, and then awook. 
For such a joye sche in hir herte took, 
Bothe of hir queynte ryng, and hir myrrour, 
That twenty tyme chaunged hire colour; 
And in hire sleep, right for the impressioun 
Of liir myrrour, sche had a visioun. 
Wherfor, or that the sonne up gan glyde, 
Sche cleped upon hir maistresse beside. 
And sayde, that hire luste for to ryse. 
These olde wommen, that ben gladly wyse, 
As is here maystresse,* answered her anoon. 
And sayd, ' Madame, whider wold ye goon 
Thus er\j1 for folk ben alle in reste.' 
' I wil,' quod sche, ' aiyse, for me leste 
No lenger for to slepe, and walke aboute.' 
Her maistres clepeth wommen a gret route, 
And up they risen, a ten other a twelve. 
Up ryseth fresshe Canace hir selve. 
As rody and bright, as is the yonge sonne 
That in the i^am is ten degrees i-ronne; 
No heiher was he, whan sche redy was ; 
And forth sche walked esily a pas, 
Arayed after the lusty sesoun soote 
Lightly for to play, and walke on foote, 

1 That has been added from Tyrwhitt for tlie<¥ake of the metre. 

2 See ante, p. 218, note 2. Prime large appeals? to mean till the hour ol 
prime was nearly spent, and the hour of tierce was about to begin. 

s Moderate in eating and sleeping. * Her governess. 


Nought but with fyve or six of hir nieyne; 
And in a trench' t'er in the park .<j;'>th sche. 
'Phe vapour, which that of the erthc glod, 
Maketh the sonne seme rody and brod; 
But natheles, it was so fair a siglit, 
That it made alle hero hcrtes for to light, 
Wliat for the sesoun, wluit for tlie niornyng 
And for the foules that sche herde syng. 
For right auoon sclie wiste what tlicy inent 
lliglit by here song, and knew al here enteut. 

The knotte,' why that every tale is told, 
If that it be taryed til lust be cold 
Of hem tliat lian it after herkued yore, 
The savour passeth ever lenger the more, 
For fulsomnes of the prolixite; 
And by this same resoun thinketli me 
I schulde to the knotte condesceude, 
And make of hir walkynge soue an ende. 

Amyddes a tree for druye as whit as chalk,' 
As Canace was pleyyug in liir walk, 
There sat a feukoun over liir lieed ful hye, 
That with a pitous vols bigan to crye. 
That al the woode resowneil of liire cry. 
And beten hadde sche hir self so pitously* 
With bothe hir wynges, to the reede blood 
Ran eudelong the tree, ther as sche stood. 
And ever in oou sche cried and sche schryght. 
And with hir bek hir selve so sche pight. 
That ther nys tigi-e uon no cruel beste, 
That dwelleth eyther in wood, or in forests, 
That uold han ■wej>t, if tliat he wepen cowde, 
For sort ' of hir, sche Sebright alway so lowde. 

• Trench appeura to mean dell. 

- The complication of circumstanci-.s wliich forms the interest of the 
story. The expression is Horace's: — ' Dignus vindice nodus.' — Epist. 
arf PUcnes. 

3 A.s white as challc for very dryness. — See ante, p. i88, note I. 

* The line is not an Aloxanilrinc, of which Chaucer lias none. Tlie 
•tn in Mm i.s vi'r>- rapiil. For had, the Lllc:iiuerc ilij. rc;iUd luith, wliicll 
settles the scansion.— \V. W. S.] 


For ther nas never yit no man on lyve, 

If that lie coutlie a fuukoun wel discrive, 

That herd of such another of fairnesse 

As wel of plumage, as of gentillesse 

Of schap, of al that might i-rekened be. 

A faukoun peregryn^ than semed sche 

Of fremde lond ; and ever as sche stood, 

Sche swowned now and now for lak of blood, 

Til wel neigh is sche fallen fro the tre. 

This faire kynges doughter, Canace, 

That on hir fynger bar the queynte ryng, 

Thurgh which sche understood wel every thing 

That eny foul may in his lydne'^ sayn, 

And couthe answer him in his lydne agayn, 

Hath understonde what this faukoun sej^de, 

And wel neigh almost for the rewthe sche deyde. 

And to the tree sche goth ful hastily, 

And on this faukoun loketh pitously, 

And held hir lappe abrod, for wel sche wist 

The faukoun moste falle fro the twist, 

Whan that sche swowned next, for lak of blood. 

A long while to wayten hir sche stood. 

Til atte last sche spak in this manere 

Unto the hauk, as ye schul after heere. 

' What is the cause, if it be for to telle, 

That ye ben in that furyalle peyne of helle V 

' Tyrwhitt quotes from an old treatise of falconry. ' La seconde 
lignie est faucons, que horn apele pelerins, par ce que nus ne trove son 
ni. Ains est pris autresi come en pcleriiiage, et est mult legiers a 
norrir, et mult cortois, et vaillans, et de bone maniere.' This agrees 
witli Chaucer's description of the falcon as of fremde, or foreign lond. 
From being mvU courtois it was called the falcon gcntil, or gentle. 
Thus in Tlie Assembly of Foules : — 

' The gentle faucon, that with his feet distreineth 
The king's hand,' &c. 
- Leden or Uchie — language, Saxon ; a corruption of the word Latin. 
Dante uses Latin in the same sense. Canz. i. : — 
' E cantine gli augelli 
Ciascuno in suo Intitw.' 


Quod Caimce unto this hauk above ; 

' Is this for sorwe of deth, or elles love? 

For as I trowe, this Ijeu causes tuo 

That causen most a gentil herte wo. 

Of other harm it iieedetli iiouicht to speke, 

For ye your self upou your self awreke; 

Which preveth wel, that either ire or drede 

!Mote ben enchesoun of your cruel dede, 

Sith that I see noon other wight you chace. 

For love of God, so doth your selve gi-ace. 

Or what may ben your helpel for west ner est 

Ne saugh I never er now no bryd ne beste, 

That ferde with him self so pitously. 

Ye sle me with your sorwe so verrily, 

I have of you so gret compassioun. 

For Goddes love, come fro the tree adoun ; 

And as I am a kynges doughter trewe, 

If that I verrayly the cause knewe 

Of your disese, if it lay in my might, 

I wold amenden it, or that it wer night,' 

Als wisly help me grete God of kynde. 

And herbes schal I right y-nowe fynde. 

To helen with your hurtes ha^tyly.' 

Tho Sebright this faukoun more jjitously 

Than ever sche did, and fil to ground anoon, 

And lay aswowne, deed as eny stoon, 

Til Canace hath in hir lap y-take, 

Unto that tyme sche gan of swowne slake ; 

And after that sche gan of swown abreyde, 

Eight in hir haukcs lydue thus sche sayde. 

' That pite reuneth sone in gentil hert ' 

(Felyng his similitude in peynes smerte) 

Is jiroved ald;iy, as men may see, 

As wel by wer'k as by auctorite;* 

' Ilarl. MS , if that 1 miyfU. 
• As well by example as by this provprb. 


For gentil herte kepeth gentillesse. 
I see wel, that ye have on my distresse 
Compassioun, my faire Canace, 
Of verray wommanly benignite, 
That nature in your principles hath set. 
But for noon hope for to fare the bet, 
But for to obeye unto your herte fre, 
And for to make othere war by me, 
As by the whelp chastised is the lyotan ; 
And for that cause and that conclusioun, 
Whiles that I have a leyser and a sjDace, 
Myn harm I wil confessen er I pace.' 
And whil sche ever of hir sorwe tolde. 
That other wept, as sche to water wolde, 
Til that the faucoun bad hir to be stille. 
And with a sighhe thus sche sayd hir tille. 

' Ther I was bred, (alias that ilke day !) 
And fostred in a roch of marble gray 
So tendrely, that nothing eyled me, 
I ne wiste not what was adversite, 
Til I couthe flee ful heigh under the sky. 
Tho dwelled a tercelet ' me faste by, 
That semed welle of alle gentillesse ; 
Al were he ful of tresoun and falsnesse, 
It was i- wrapped binder humble cheere. 
And under heewe of trouthe in such manere, 
(Jnder plesaunce, and under besy pcyne. 
That no wight wende that he couthe feyne. 
So deep in greyn he deyed his colours. 
Right as a serpent hut him under floures 
Til he may see his tyme for to byte : 
Right so this god of loves ypocrite" 

' The tercelet is the male of the peregrine falcon, and, unlike most 
other males, is smaller and less courageous than the female. See 
Romeo and Juliet, Act ii. sc. a : — 

' O for a falconer's voice 
To lure this tassel-gentle back again." 
^ Harl. MS. — ' This god of Jove, this ypocryte.' The meaning is, ' thit 
hypocritical worskipper of the god of love.' 


Doth SO his sermonys and his observaiince, 

Under subtil colour and aqueyntaunce, 

That sowucth unto gontilesse of love. 

As in a tombe is al the faire above, 

And under is the corps,' whiche that ye wot; 

Such was this ipocrite, bothc cold and hot, 

And in this wise he served his entent, 

That, sauf the teend, noon wiste what he raent. 

Til he so long had wcped and compleyned, 

And many a yocr his service to me t'eyned, 

Til that myn hert, to pitous and to nyce, 

Al innocent of his crouned malice, 

For-fered of his deth, as thoughte me, 

Upon his othes and his sewerte, 

Graunted him love, on this condicioun, 

That evermo myn honour and my renoun 

Were saved, both pry vy and apert ; 

That is to sayn, that, after his desert, 

I gaf him al myn hert and al my thought, 

(God woot, and he, that other weye nought) 

And took his hei-t in chaunge of myn for ay. 

But soth is sayd, go sithens many a day, 

A trew wight and a theef thenketh nought oon. 

And when he saugh the thyng so fer i-goon. 

That I had gi-aunted him fully my love, 

In such a wyse as I have &\yd above, 

x\.nd geven him my trewe hert as fre 

As he swor that he gaf his herte to me. 

Anon this tigre, ful of doublenesse, 

Fil on his knees with so gi'et devoutenesae, 

With so high reverence, as by his chere, 

So lyk a gentil lover of manere, 

So ravj'sched, as it semede, for joye, 

That never Jason, ne Parys of Troye, 

' Matt, xxiii. z~. 
- God aud lie know that I loved him in no other way. 

VOL. I. 2 1 



Jason? certes, ne noon other man, 
Sith Lameth ^ was, that altherfirst bygat 
To loven two, as writen folk biforn, 
Ne never sith the firste man was born, 
Ne couthe man by twenty thousand part 
Contrefete the sophemes of Ids art; 
Ne were worthy to unbokel his galoche, 
Ther doublenes of feynyng schold approche, 
Ne so couthe thankyn a wight, as he did me, 
His maner was an heven for to see 
To eny womman, were sche never so wys ; 
So peynteth he and kembeth,° poynt devye, 
As wel his wordes, as his continaunce. 
And I so loved him for his obeisaunce, 
And for the trouthe I demed in his herte, 
That if so were that eny thing him smerte, 
Al were it never so litel, and I it wist, 
Me thought I felte deth at myn hert twist. 
And schortly, so ferforth this thing is went, 
That my wil was his willes instrument; 
This is to say, my wille obeied his wille 
In alle thing, as fer as resoun fille, 
Kepyng the boundes of my worschip ever ; 
Ne never had I thing so leef, ne lever, 
As him, God woot, ne never schal nomo. 
This laste lenger than a yeer or two, 
That I supposed of him nought but good. 
But fynally, atte laste thus it stood. 
That fortune wolde that he moste twynne 
Out of the place which that I was inne. 
Wher me was wo, it is no questioun; 
I can nat make of it descripcioun. 
For o thing dar I telle boldely, 
I know what is the peyne of deth, therby, 

' Lamech was the first who had two wives. — Gen. iv. 
'-' Combeth. The sense in the text is settles, or arranges, his words 
BJid countenance at poynt devys, with care and precision. 


Which harm I felt, for he ne miglitc byleve.' 

So ou a day of me he took liis leve. 

So sorwfiU eek, that I went verrayly, 

That lie had ft-led als moche harm as I, 

AMian that I herd him speke, and saiigh his hewe. 

But natheles, I thought he was so trewe, 

And eek that he schulde repeire ageyn 

Withinne a litel while, soth to seyn, 

And resouu wold eek that he moste go 

For his honour, as oft it happeth so.^ 

Than I made vertu of necessite, 

And took it wel, sethens it moste be. 

As I best might, I had fro him my sorwe, 

And took him by the hand, seint Johan to borwe," 

And sayde thus: ' Lo, I am youres al, 

Beth such as I have be to you and schal.' 

What he answerd, it needeth nat to reherse: 

Who can say bet than he, who can do werse? 

Whan he hath al wel sayd, than hath he doon. 

Therfor bihoveth him a ful long spoon, 

That schal ete with a feend ;* thus herd I say. 

So atte last he moste foi-th his way, 

And forth he fleeth, til he cam ther him leste. 

Whan it cam him to purpos for to reste, 

I trow he hadde thilke text' in mynde. 

That alle thing repeyryng to his kynde 

' I can form some conception of the pain of death from what I then 
suffered. I felt such distress as lie could not believe. 

- Harl. MS. omits asoflit happeth so. The words are supplied from 

3 With the help of St. John, a common form of invocation. 

' This expressive proverb was coniinon in the middle ages. 3Ir. 
WriRlit points out two places in Shakespeare where it occurs. Comnhj 
of Errors, Act iv. sc. 3, ' .Marry, he must have a lonj; spoon that must 
eat with the devil ;' and Timpcst, Act a, .Stephano says, ' Slercy ! 
mercy ! this is a devil, and no monster: 1 will leave him; I have no 
long spoon." 

* This is taken from Boethius, lib. iii. met. a, thus translated by 
Chaucer : — ' All thynjres sekcn aytn to liirpropre course, and all thynges 
rejoy.sen on hir retourninge ugayne to hir nature.' The comparison of 
the bird is fVom the same source. 

o , o 



Gladeth liimself; thus seyn men, as I gesse; 

Men loven of kynde newefangilnesse, 

As briddes doon, that men in cage feede. 

For theigli thou night and day take of hem heede, 

And straw her cage-faire and soft as silk, 

And geve hem sugre, hony, breed, and mylk, 

Yet right anoon as that his dore is uppe, 

He with his feet wil sporne doun his cuppe/ 

And to the wode he wil, and wormes ete ; 

So newefangel be thei of her mete, 

And loven non leveres of propre kinde ; 

No gentiles of blood ne may hem binde. 

So ferde this tercelet, alas the day ! 

Though he were gentil born, and fresh, and gay. 

And goodly for to see, and humble, and free. 

He saw upon a time a kite^ fle. 

And sodeynly he loved this kite soo, 

That al his love is clene fro me goo; 

And hath his trouthe falsed in this wise. 

Thus hathe the kite my love in hir servise, 

And I am lorue withoute remedy.' 

And with that worde this faukon gan to cry, 

And swowneth eft in Canacees barme. 

Gret was the sorwe for that haukes harme. 

That Canace and alle hire wommen made; 

They nysten howe they myght the faukon glade. 

But Canace hom bereth hir in hir lappe. 

And softely in piastres gan hir wrappe, 

Ther as sche with hir bek hadde hurt hir selve. 

Now can nought Canace bot herbes delve 

Out of the grounde, and maken salves newe 

Of herbes precious and fyne of hewe, 

' A leaf or two have unfortunately been lost from the Harl. MS. 
after this line, and I am obliged to take the remainder of the tale from 
Tyrwhitt, collated with the Lansd. MS.— W. 

- The kite is a cowardly species of hawk, quite unfit for falconry, 
and was, therefore, the emblem of everything base, in the ages when 
the love of this sport almost amounted to madness. 


To Helen with this hauk;' fro day to night 
Sche doth hir bcsines, and al liir might. 
And by hir heddcs heed sche made a mcwe,* 
And covered it with veluettes blewe,^ 
In signe of tre^vthe that is in womman seene ; 
And al withoute the mewe is peynted gi-eene, 
In wliichc were peynted alle this false foules, 
As ben this tideves, tercelettes, and owles; 
And pies, on hem for to crye and chide, 
Right for despite were peynted hem byside.* 

Thus lete I Canace hir liauk kepyng. 
I wil nomore nowe speken of hir rynge, 
Til it come eft to purpos for to scyn, 
How that this faukon gat hir love ageyn 
Repentaunt, as the story telleth us, 
By mediacioun of Canibalhis 
The kinges sone, of which that I yow tolde ; 
But hennesforth I wil my proces holde 
To speken of aventures, and of batailes. 
That yit was never herd so grete mervailes. 
First wil I telle yow of Cambynskan, 
That in his time many a cite wan ; 
And after wil I speke of A Igarsif, 
How that he wan Theodora to his wif * 
For whom ful ofte in grete peril he was, 
Ne had he ben holpen by the hors of bras. 

' To heal this hawk with. 

- A mew was the technical name for the place where hawks were 
kept to mew or moult in. 

^ Ulue was the colour of truth, and preen of inconstancy ; hence, in 
Chaucer's lialUule on an Inconstant Lady : — 

' Instede of blewe, thus may ye were al grene." 

^ The MSS. transpose these two lines, evidently by mistake. Mag- 
pies are obse^^•ed to follow all birds and beasts of prey with loud cries, 
as if scoldinfj them, to which habit the allusion refers. 

i The lines of this couiiUt are also transposed in many SISS. and 
printed editions. Tyrwhitt puts them right, and observes. ' According 
to the common arrangement, old Cambuscun is to «-i>i Theotlorn to kit 
«•«/. and we are not told what is to be the obtject of Algarsifs adven- 


And after wil I speke of Camballo, 
That fought in listes with the bretheren tuo 
For Cauace, er that he might hir wynne, 
And ther I left I -wol ageyn beginne/ 


' TN faith, Sqnier, thou hast the wel y-quit" 

J- And gentilly, I preise wel thy wit,' 
Quod the Frankeleyn, 'considering thin youthe; 
So felingly thou spekest, sire, I aloue the. 
As to my dome, ther is non that is here, 
Of eloquence that schal be thy pere, 
If that thou live ; God geve thee goode chance, 
And in vertue send the continuance, 
For of thy speking I have gret deinte. 
I have a sone, and by the Trinite 
It were me lever than twenty pound worth lond, 
Though it right now were fallen in my hond, 
He were a man of swiche discretion, 
As that ye ben ; fie on possession, ^ 

> In the Lansd. MS. the following lines are added : 

• Bot I wil here now maalie a knolte 
To the time it cume next to my lotte ; 
For here be telawes bebinde an bepe trtulye. 
That woUle talke ful besilye, 
And have her sjxirte as welo as I, 
And the dale jtasseth fast certanly. 
Therefore, osfe. tabeth nowe f^oode lieede 
Who schalle next telle, and late him speede. ' — W. 

[The lines here quoted are spurious, but the Ellesmere MS. and otIiei"s have 
two additional lines, which are probably genuine, though tlie sentence 
is left incomplete. They are :— 

" Appollo whirleth up his char so hye. 
Til that tlie god Mercurious hous the slye." . . . 

Add He entreth. The meaning is, the time flies till the sun enters the sign 
Gemini, which was the mansion of Mercury.— W. W. S.] 

2 All from this verse to tlie end of the second paragraph, ' Tliat wot 1 
wel that it is good y-now,' i's supplied Ironi the Lansd. by Mr. Wriglit. 

' I care not for property or iwssession, unless the owner be \irluuus. 


But if a man be vertuous withal. 
1 have my sone snibbtd, aud yet shal, 
Fur he to vertue listeth not to enteud, 
But for to play at dis, and to dispend. 
And lese all that he hath, is his usage; 
And he had lever talken with a page, 
Than to commune with any gentil wight, 
Ther he might leren gentillesse aright' 

' Straw for your gentillesse !' quod our hoste. 
' What ] Frankeleyn, parde, sire, wel thou \vo»t. 
That eche of you mote tellen at the lest 
A tale or two, or breken his behest.' 
' That know I wel, sire,' quod the Frankeleyn, 
* I pray you haveth me not in disdein. 
Though I to this man speke a word or two,' 
' Tell on thy tale, withouten wordes mo.' 
' Gladly, sire hoste,' quod he, ' I wol obeye 
Unto your wille ; now herkeneth what I seye ; 
I wol you not contrarien in no wise, 
As fer as that my wittes may suffice. 
I pray to God that it may plesen you. 
That wot I wel that it is good y-uow. 

' This olde gentil Bretons in here daies 
Of divers aventures maden hues,* 
Rimyden in her firste Breton tonge ; 
Wliiche laies with here instruinentes' thei songe. 
Other elles redden hem for her })lesance, 
And one of hem have I in remembrance, 
Which I schal seie Avith goode wil as I can. 
But, sires, because I am a burel man, 

' This expression appears to be from the conclusion of Marie's Lair 

lEliduc: — 

•Del avcnture de ces treis, 
Li auncicn Bretun curtcis 
Firent le lai pur remembrcr." 
- They were sung to the harp, as appears from a fragment in ilr. 

Doiice'8 collection : — 

* Bone lais de harpe vus apri?, 
Lais Bretons de nostrc puis.' 


At my beginnyng first I you beseche 

Haveth me excused of my rude speche, 

I lerned never retborik certeine ; 

Thinge that I speke, it most be bare and pleine ; 

I slept never on the mount of Parnaso, 

Ne lerned Marcus, Tullius, ne Citbero.' 

Colours ne know I non, witbouten drede. 

But sucbe colours as growen in tbe mede, 

Or elles suche as men deye with or peinte; 

Coloiu's of retborik ben to me queynte ; 

My spirit feletb^ nougbt of sucbe matiere. 

But if you luste my tale scbal ye bere.' 


[The Breton lay, from which the Frankeleyne professes to 
have derived his story, is not known to exist. The subject, 
however, seems to have survived in a popular fabliau, 
■which Boccaccio has drawn upon in the Decameron, and 
also introduced into his Philocopo. The reader will observe 
the ditference between the spirit of the Teutonic and of the 
Breton fable, characteristic of the marked distraction between 
the Saxon and British races. The former is familiar with 
traits of daring and heroic virtue, and sometimes of violence 
and crime ; the latter is tinged with a certain soft and refined 
licentiousness which confuses the moral perception, and indi- 
cates the presence of the Italian element introduced by the 
Koman colonists, but happily expelled from the national 
character by our Saxon forefathers. In this tale there 
are passages which equal, and perhaps exceed, in beauty 
any that Chaucer ever wrote ; and indeed nothing but his 

' This blundering about Cicero's name is probably designed as an 
affectation by which the country gcutlemau shows his contempt for all 
such learning. 

' A most expressive phrase to denote the inability of an uncultivatetl 
mind to appreciate the beauties of style; answering to the French 


judicious and clopfant treatment could have redeemed so un- 

pleasjng a story.] 

TN Armoi-ik, that clopid is Bretaigne, 

-*- TlicT wa.s a kiiyght, that loved and dede hi.? peyne 

To serveu a lady iu his beste wise ; 

And many a labour, many a grete emprise 

He for liis lady -svi-ouht, or sche were wonne ; 

For sche was on the fairest under sonne, 

And eke therto com of so liihe kinrede, 

That welc uunethes dorst this knyht for drede 

Tel hir his wuo, his peine, and his distresse. 

But at the last, sche for his worthinesse, 

And namely for his meke obeissance, 

Hath suche a pite cauglit of his penance, 

That prively sche fel of his accorde 

To take him for hir husboude and hir lorde, 

(Of suche lordschip as men han over hire wyves);' 

And, for to lede the more in blisse her lyves, 

Of his fre wil he swore hire as a knyht, 

That never in his wil be day ne nyht 

Ne scholde he upon him take no maistrie 

Ageines hir wille, ne kyihe hire jelousye, 

But liire obeie, and folowe hire wille in al, 

As any lover to his lady schal ; 

Save that the name of sovereignete 

That wolde^ he have for schame of his degre. 

Sche thonketh him, and with ful grete humblesse 

Sche seide ; ' Sir, seththe of youre geutillesse 

Ye profer me to have als large a reyne, 

Ne, wold nevere God betwix us tweyne, 

As in my gulte, were eyther werre or strif * 

Sir, I wil be youre humble trewe wif, 

1 Apparently ironical. 

- The Lansd. MS. reads twlde, wliich completely destroys the mean- 
iog of the passage. 

3 Nor. would to God, that there should ever be strife between us two 
oa account of any guilt of mine. 


Have here my trouthe, til that myn herte brustc* 

Thus ben they bothe in quiete and in ruste. 

For o thinge, sirea, saufly dar I seie, 

That frendes everyche other motte obeie, 

If thei wil longe holde compaigne. 

Love wil nouht ben constreyned by maistre. 

Whan maistre commeth, the god of love anon 

Beteth his winges, and fare wel, he is gon.^ 

Love is a thinge, as any spirit, fre. 

Wommen of kinde desiren liberte, 

And nouht to be constreined as a thral ; 

And so doth men, if I the sothe saie schal. 

Loke who that is most pacient in love, 

He is at his avantage al above.'' 

Paciens is an hihe vertue certein, 

For it venquisheth, as this clerkes seiu, 

Thinges that rigour never sholde atteine. 

For every worde men may nouht chide ne pleine. 

Lerueth to sufi'er, or elles, so most I gon. 

Ye schul it lerne whether ye wol or non. 

For in this world certein no wight ther is, 

That he ne doth or seyth som time amis. 

Ire, or sikenesse, or constellacioun, 

Wyn, wo, or chaunginge of complexioun, 

Causeth ful oft to don amys or speken. 

On every wronge men maye nouht be wreken ; 

After the time most be temperance 

To every wight that can of governance. 

And therfor hath this worthy wise knight 

To liven in ese sufFrance hir behight ; 

And sche to him ful wisely gan to swere, 

That nevere schold ther be defaute in hire. 

Here may men seen an humble wise accorde ; 

Thus hath sche take hire servant and hir lorde, 

' The reader will remark the elegant simplicity and practical wisdom 
of this passage, so characteristic of Chaucer's genius. 

- That is, He who asserts the least authority in matters of love, 
possesses in reality the most. 


Servant in love, ;ind lurde in manage. 

Tliau was he bothe in lunk-.scliipe and servage ! 

Servage? nay, but iu lordesohij) al above, 

Setlieu he hath bothe his lady and his love; 

His lady certes, anil liis wif also, 

The which that law of love accordeth to. 

And whan hu Wiui in this prosperite, 

Home with liis wif he goth to his contre, 

Nouht fer fro Peumarke;^ thor his dwollinge was, 

Wher as he leveth in blisse and in solas. 

Who conthe telle, but he had wedded be. 
The joy, the ese, and the prosperite, 
That is betwix an housboud and his wif? 
A yere and more lasteth this blisful lif, 
Til that this knight, of which I spak of thus, 
That of Cairmd was cleped Arviragus, 
Schope him to gon and dwelle a yere or tweyne 
In Engelond, that cleped eke was Bretayne, 
To seke in arnies worschipe and honour, 
(For al his lust he set in suche labour) ; 
And dwelleth there tuo yere; the boke seith thus. 

Now wil I stint of this Arviragus, 
And speken I wil of Dorigen his wif. 
That loveth hire husbond as hire hertes lif. 
For his absence wepeth sche and siketh. 
As don this noble wives whan hem liketh ; 
Sche mometh, waketh, waileth, fasteth, pleyneth ; 
Desire of his presence hir so distreincth, 
That al this wide world sche set at nouht. 
Hire frendes, which that knewe hir hevy thouht, 

' Penmark is to be found in the mo<lern maps of Brittany, between 
Brest and Fort I'Orient. All the names in this poem arc Breton, and 
many will be recognized by any one who has been in Wales. I'tnmarl: 
is from Pun. caput, and mark, limes, retjio ; the tirst element of the 
word enters into many Welsh names, as Penman jl/nwr, the prcat head- 
land. Cairnul means the red city; Cair.a. city, is found in Carnarvon, 
Carlisle, and Carhai.x in Brittany. Drofiuen or lx>rguen was the name 
of the wile of Alain I. Aurelius is a Breton name derived from tho 
Roman colonists. Arviraijtis is apparently a Breton name latinized, as 
Caractacus from Caradoc, and is found in Juvenal, Sat. iv. la?. 


Comforten hire in al that ever thei may ; 

Thei prechen hire, thai tellen hire nyht and day, 

That causeles sche sleth hir self, alas ! 

And every comfort possible in this cas 

They don to hire, with al here businesse, 

And al to make hire leve hire hevynesse. 

By proces, as ye knowen everychone, 

Men mowe so longe graven in a stone, 

Til som figui'e therinne emprinted be; 

So longe have thei comforted hire, that sche 

Receyved hath, by hope and by resoun. 

The emprintinge of hire consolacioun. 

Thorugh which hire grete sorwe gan assuage ; 

Sche may not alway duren in suche rage. 

And eke Arviragiis, in al this care, 

Hath sent his lettres home of his welfare, 

And that he wolde come hastily ageyn. 

Or elles had this sorwe hire herte sleyn. 

Hire frendes sauh hire sorwe gan to slake. 

And preiden hire on knees, for Goddes sake, 

To come and romen in here companye, 

Away to driven hire dei'ke fantasie ; 

And finally sche graunted that request, 

For wel sche sauh that it was for the best. 

Now stode hir castel faste by the see. 
And often with hire frendes walked sche, 
Hir to disporten on the bank an hihe, 
Wher as sche many a schip and barge sihe, 
Sailinge her cours, wher as hem liste to go. 
But yit was that a parcel of hir wo. 
For to hir selve ful oft, ' alas !' seid sche, 
* Is ther no schip, of so many as I se, 
Wil bringen home my lorde? than were myu herte 
Al warisshed of this bitter peine smerte.' 

Another time wold sche sitte and thinke, 
And kast hir eye dounward fro the bi-inke ; 
But whan sche sawh the grisly rokkes blake, 
For verray fere so wolde hire herte qwake. 


That on hir feet sche mylite uoulit hir snstene. 

Than wokle sche sit adoun upon the grene, 

And pitously into the see biholde, 

And seyn right thus, witli careful sikes colde 

* Eterne God, that thorugh thy purveauce 

Ledest this world by certein governance, 

In idel,^ as men sein, ye nothinge make. 

But, Lord, this grisely fendely rockes blake, 

That semen rather a foule confusioun 

Of werke, than any faire creacioun 

Of suche a parfit wise God and stable, 

Why han ye wrouht this werk unresonable? 

For by this werke, southe, northe, este, ne west, 

Ther nis i-fostred man, ne brid, ne best; 

It doth no good, to ray wit, but anoyeth. 

See ye nouht. Lord, how mankind it destroyeth? 

An hundred thousand bodies of manlcinde 

Han rokkes slein, al be they nouht in mynde; 

Which mankinde is so faire parte of tliy wei'ke. 

Thou madest it like to thyu owen raerke,'' 

Than, semeth it, ye had a gret cherte 

Toward mankinde ; but how than may it be, 

That ye suche meues make it to destroyen ] 

Which menes doth no good, but ever anoyen. 

I woot wel, clerkes woln sein as hem lest 

By argumentz, that al is for the best, 

Though I ne can the causes nought y-knowe ; 

But thilke God tliat maad the wind to blowe, 

As kepe my lord, this is my conclusioun; 

To clerkes lete I al disputisoun; 

But wolde God, that al this rokkes blake 

Were sonken into helle for liis sake ! 

This rokkes slee myu herte for the fere.' 

Thiis wold sche say with many a pi tons tere. 

Hire frendes sawe that it uas no disport 
To I'omen by the see, but discomfort, 

' In vain. * In thine own image, Gen. ii. 


And schope hem for to pleien somwhere elles. 
They leden hire by rival's and by welles, 
And eke in other places delitables; 
They dauncen and they play at ches and tables.* 
So on a day, right in the morwe tide, 
Unto a gardeyn that was ther beside, 
In which that they had made her ordinance 
Of vitaile, and of other purveance, 
They gon and plaie hem al the longe day; 
And this was on the sixte morwe of May ; 
Which May had peinted with his softe schoures 
This gardeyn ful of leves and of floxires : 
And craft of mannes bond so curiously 
Arrayed had this gardeyn trewely. 
That never was ther gardeyn of suche pris, 
But if it were the verray paradis. 
The odour of floures and the fresshe siht, 
Wold ban y-maked any herte light 
That ever was born, but if to gret sikenesse 
Or to gret sorwe held it in distresse. 
So ful it was of beaute and plesaunce. 
And after dinner gan thay to daunce 
And singe also, sauf Dorigen alone, 
Which made alway hire compleynt and hire mone. 
For sche ne sawh him on the daunce go. 
That was hir housbond, and hire love also ; 
But natheles sche moste hir time abide, 
And with good hope lete hire sorwe slide. 
Upon this daunce, amonges othere men, 
Daunced a squier before Dorigen, 
That fresscher was and jolier of array. 
As to my dome, than is the monetli of May. 

• Chess and backgammon are supposed to be very ancient. The 
former is mentioned in the Iliad. ' Robert of Gloucester,' a poet of 
the reign of Edward I., enumerates it among other knightly amuse- 
ments : — 

' Wyth pleyynge at tables, other atte chekoro, 
Wyth castynge, otlier wyth s.setynge, other in some other manere.' 


He sinifeth and dannseth passing any man, 

Tliat is or was siththo that the world began; 

Therwith he was, if men scluild him descrive, 

On of the beste faringe men on live, 

Yonge, strong, riht virtuous, and riche, and wise, 

And wel beloved, and holden in gret })rise. 

And schortly, if the soth I tellen schal, 

Unwoting of this Dorigen at al, 

This lusty squier, servant to Venus, 

Which that y-cleped was Aurilius, 

Had loved liire best of any creature 

Two yere and more, as was his adventure ; 

But never dorst he tellen hire his grevance, 

Withouten cuppe he drank al his penance.* 

He was dispeired, nothing dorst he seye, 

Sauf in his songcs sorawhat wolde he wreye 

His woo, as in a general compleyniug ; 

He said, he loved, and was beloved nothing. 

Of suche matier made he many layes, 

Songes, compleyntes, roundelets, vii-elayes;* 

How that he dorste not his sorwe telle. 

But languissheth as doth a fuyr in helle ; 

And deie he must, he seid, as did Ekko' 

For Narcisus, that dorst nought telle hir wo. 

In other maner than ye here me seye 

Ne dorst he noulit to hii-e his wo bewreye, 

' This line is obscure ; but it seems to mean, lie indulged his sor- 
row witliout limit, as one who drinks without cup; i. e.,\%Ttliout measure. 

- Of these kinds of poems we have examples in Chaiu-er's works, an 
Id fhe Complaint of Mart and Venui. The poem bej^nnlnff— 

'Alone walking 
In thi>u;.'ht plainyng 
And s<irr sijjliinj;, 
All deolate,' (.vol. Ui. p. 4:6) 

is a specimen of the virclaye, nearly oynonymous with ' round ' or 
• roundclet,' the origin, probably, of what is now called a •catch.' 

^ Mtlamorph., lib. iii. 370. Ovid was a favourite author in the 
middle ages, and Mr. Wright says that the story ol A'arciaiius was 
made the subject of a Fnncb Jabltau, 


Sauf that paraventure som time at daunces, 

Ther yonge folk kepen her observaunces, 

It may wel be he loked on hir face 

111 suche a wise, as man that axeth grace, 

But nothing wiste sche of his entent. 

Natheles it happed, er they thennes went, 

Because that he was hire neighebour, 

And was a man of worschipe and honour, 

And had y-knowen him oft times yore, 

Thei felle in speche, and forth ay more and more 

Unto his purpos drowh Aurilius ; 

And whan he sawh his time, he seide thus. 

' Madame,' quod he, ' by God, that this world mad' 

So that I wist it might your herte glade, 

I wolde that day, that your Arviragus 

Went over see, that I Aurilius 

Had went ther I schold never come agein; 

For wel I wot my servise is in vein. 

My guerdon nys but bresting of myn herte. 

Madame, reweth upon my peines smerte, 

For with a word ye may me sle or save. 

Here at youre feet God wold that I were grave ; 

I ne have as now no leiser more to seye ; 

Have mercy, swete, or ye wol do me deye.' 

Sche gan to loke upon Aurilius ; 
' Is this your wil,' quod sche, 'and say ye thus? 
Never erst,' quod sche, ' ne wist I what ye ment ; 
But now, Aui-ilie, I know your entent. 
By^ thilke God, that gave me soule and lif, 
Ne schal I never ben untrewe wif 
In word ne werk ; as fer as I have witte, 
I wil ben his to whom that I am knitte. 
Take this for final answer as of me.' 
But after that in play thus seide sche : 
' Aurilie,' quod sche, ' by hihe God above, 
Yit wil I graunte you to be your love, 

1 3fr. Wright reads But. 



(Sill I yow see so pitously complcyue), 

Loke, what day that endelong Broteigne 

Ye reniewe al the I'okkes, ston by ston, 

That they ne lettcu schip ne bote to gon; 

I say, whan ye have maad this cost so cloue 

Of rokkes. that ther nys no ston y-sene, 

Than wol 1 hive yow best of aiij' man, 

Have liere my troutlie, in al that eve)" I can; 

For wel I wot that that schal never betide. 

Let suche folie out of youre herte glide. 

What dejTite scholde a man have in his lif, 

For to go love another mannes wif, 

That hath hir body whan that ever him likethf 

Aurilius ful often sore siketh ; 

' Is ther non other grace in you V quod he. 

' No, by that Lord,' quod sche, ' that maked me.' 

Wo was Aurilie.whan that he this herde, 

And with a sorweful herte he thus answerde. 

'Madame,' quod he, 'this were an impossible. 

Than moste I deie of sodeyn deth horrible.' 

And with that word he turned him anon. 

Tho come hir other frendes many on, 
And in the alleyes romed up and doun, 
And nothing wist of this conclusioun, 
But sodeyuly began to revel newe, 
Til that the brighte soune had lost his hewe, 
For the orizont had reft the sonne his liht, 
(This is as much to sayn as it was nyht);' 
And home thei gon in joye and solas; 
Sauf only wrecche Aurilius, alas ! 
He to his hous is gon with sorweful herte. 
He saith, he may not from his deth asterte. 
Him semeth, that he felt his herte colde. 
Up to the heven his handes gan he holde. 

' The Frankclcyne appears to have been inadvertently betrayed 

into the U!<e of a poetical c.vpresiiiou, which hu ha;itc-ni to trauslata 
into plain English. 

VOL. r. 2 K 


And on his knees bare he set him doun, 

And in his raving seid his orisoun. 

For verray wo out of his witte he braide, 

He nyst nouht what he spak, but thus he seidej 

With pitous herte his pleynt hath he begonue 

Unto the goddes/ and first unto the sonne. 

He seid, ' Apollo, God and governour 

Of every plante, herbe, tre, and flour, 

That givest after thy declinacioun 

To eche of hem his tyme and sesoun, 

As that thin herbergh chaungeth low and liihe; 

Lord Phebus, cast thy merciable eye 

On wrecche Aurilie, which that am for-lorne. 

Lo, lord, my lady hath my deth y-sworne 

Withouten gilt, but thy benignite 

Upon my dedly herte have some pite. 

For wel I wot, lord Pliebus, if you lest. 

Ye may me helpen, sauf my lady, best. 

Now voucheth sauf, that I may you devise 

How that I may be holpe and in what wise. 

Your blisful suster, Lucina^ the schene, 

That of the see is chief goddes and qwene ;— 

Though Neptunus have deite in the see, 

Yit emperes aboven him is sche ; 

Ye knowe wel, lord, that right as hir desire 

Is to be quiked and lihted of your fire, 

For which sche folwith yow ful besily. 

Right so the see desireth naturelly 

To folwen hir, as sche that is goddesse 

Both in the see and rivers more and lesse. 

Wherfor, lord Phebus, this is my request, 

Do this miracle, or do myn herte brest ; 

1 See ante, p. as, note i. 
- One of the names of Diana, here called goddess of the sea, 
because the tides are influenced by the changes of the moon. He does 
not address himself to Diana immediately, probably because he could 
not expect that such a prayer should be favourably received by the 
goddess of chastity. 


That now next at this opposlcioun, 
Which in the signe schal be of the Lyoun, 
As preyeth hire so grete a flood to bringe, 
Tliat live fathome at the lost it overspringe 
The hihest rokke iu Anuorik Uretaiue, 
And let this flod enduren yeres twaine; 
Than certes to my lady may I say, 
Holdeth yoiu' host, the rokkes ben away. 
Lord Phebus, this miracle doth for me, 
Prey hire sche go no faster cours than ye; 
I sey this, preyeth your suster that sche go 
No taster cours than ye this yeres tuo; 
Than schal sche even be at ful alway. 
And spring-flood lasten bothe night and day. 
And but sche vouchesauf in suche manere 
To gi-aunten me my sovereigne lady dere, 
Prey hir to sinken every rok adoun 
Into hir owen darke reccioun 
Under the grounde, ther Pluto duelleth iune, 
Or nevermo schal I my lady wynne. 
Thy temple in Delphos wil I barfote seke;' 
Lord Phebus, se the tei'es on my cheke, 
And on my peyne have some compassioun.' 
And with that word in sorwe he fel adoun. 
And lou£;-e time he lay forth in a traunce. 
His brother, which that knew of his penaunce, 
Up cauht him, and to bed he hath him brouht. 
Dispeired in this turment and this thouht. 
Let I this woful creature lye, 
Chese he for me whether he wol leve or deye. 

Arviragus with hele and gi-eto honour 
(As he that was of chevalrie the flour) 
Is comen home, and other worthy min. 
O, blisful art thou now, thou Dorigen, 
That hast thy lusty housboud iu thin armes, 
The fressche knight, the worthy man of amies, 

• Vow8 and pilgrimages were common to all forms of reli;non. 

•2 K -2 


That loveth the, as his owen hertes lif; 

Nothing list him to be imaginatif, 

If any wight had spoke, while he was onte, 

To hire of love; he had of that no doute; 

He noulit entendeth to no suche matere, 

But daunceth, justeth, and maketh mery chere. 

And thus in joye and blisse I let hem dwelle, 

And of the sike Aurilius wol I telle. 

In langour and in turment furius 

Two yere and more lay wrecche Aurilius, 

Er any foot on erthe he mighte gon ; 

Ne comfoi-t in this time had he non, 

Sauf of his brother, which that was a clerk. 

He knew of al this wo and al this werk ; 

For to non other creature certein 

Of this matere he dorste no word seyn; 

Under his brest he bar it more secre 

Than ever dede Pamphilus for Galathe.* 

His brest was hole withouten for to sene, 

But in his herte ay was the arwe kene; 

And wel ye wote that of a sursanure 

In surgerie ful pex'ilous is the cure, 

But men myght touch the arwe or come therby. 

His brother wepeth and weyleth prively. 

Til at the last him fel in remembraunce, 

That whiles he was in Orleaunce in Fraunce,* 

As yonge clerkes, that ben likerous 

To reden artes that ben curious, 

1 Urry, misled by his classical learning, altered this line to 

• Than Polyphemus did for Galathee ;' 
but the allusion is to a Latin poem popular in Chaucer's time, in which 
Pamphilus describes his love of Galatea in the following style: — 

' Vulueror, et clausum porto sub pectore telum,' &c. 
— See TYRwniTT. 

2 The University of Orleans was a celebrated seat of learning till it 
wag supplanted by that of Paris ; and, as Mr. Wright remarks, the 
rivalry between them probably gave riae to the imputation t)»at magic 
was practised at Orleans. 


Seken in every halke aud every heme * 

Piirticulere sciences for to lerne, 

He him remembreth, that upon a day, 

At Orloauiioe in stu'.lio a boke ho seye 

Of niagik naturel, which liis fehiw," 

That was that time a bacheler of law, 

Al were he ther to lerne another craft, 

Had i)rively upon his desk y-laft; 

Which book spak moche of operaciouns 

Touchinge the eight and twenty mansiouns 

That longen to the mone, and siiche folie 

As in oure dayes nys not worth a flye; 

For holy chcrches feith,* in our byleve, 

jSTe suffreth non illusioun us to greve. 

And wlian this boke was in his reniembraunce, 

Anon for joye his herte gan to dauuce, 

And to him self he seide prively ; 

' My brother schal be warisshed hastely ; 

For I am siker that ther be sciences, 

By which men maken divers apparences, 

Such as this subtil tregetoures pleyn.' 

For oft at festes have 1 wel herd seyn, 

' Every hole and corner. ' See note 4 below. 

^ In the examination of conscience by the ten commanilinents, the 
old books of theology class fortune-telling, magic, interpretation of 
dreams, aud, in short, the belief in any power not dependent upon 
God, among the breaches of the first commandment. 

■• Tyrwhitt here obser^'es: — ' If we compare the feats of the tre- 
getours, as described in this passage, with those which are afterwards 
performed by the clerke's magic, for the entertainment of his guests, 
we shall find them very similar; aud they may both be illustrated by 
the following account which Sir John Mandevile has given of the ex- 
hibition before the grite chaii: — 'And then comen jo</ulours and 
e/icluititoures, that don many mMrvaylles ; for they maken to come in 
the ayr the sonnc and the mone, be scmynge, to every mannes .-iglit. 
And after tliey muken tlie niglit so dark, that no man may see no 
thing. And after they maken the day to come ayen fair and pleasant 
with bright sonne to every mannes sight. And then they bringen in 
daunCi s o( lUc faire.-it damysellos of the world and riehe.«t arrayed. . . . 
And than they m.ike Lin/i/lites to jiiiixtm in amies full lustily, &«. 
And tli&n they maku to come in hunti/n;/ for the lurt and for the boor, 
with houndcs reuning with open nioutUe.'— MANDKVLLii'sI/VafU^.p. 


That tregetoures, within an halle large, 

Have made come in a water and a barge, 

And in the halle rowen up and doun. 

Som time hath semed come a grim lyoun; 

And som time floures springe as in a mede; 

Som time a vine, and grapes white and rede ; 

Som time a castel al of lime and ston, 

And whan hem liketh voideth it anon; 

Thus semeth it to every mannes sight. 

Now than conclude I thus, if that I might 

At Orleaunce som olde felaw finde, 

That hath this mones mansions in mynde, 

Or other magik naturel above, 

He scholde wel make my brother have his lov& 

For with an apparence a clerk may make 

To mannes sight, that alle the rokkes blake 

Of Breteigne were y-voided everichon, 

And schippes by the brinke comen and gon, 

And in suche forme endure a day or tuo; 

Than were my brother warisshed of his wo, 

Than most sche nedes holden hire behest, 

Or elles he schal schame hire at the lest.' 

What schold I make a lenger tale of this? 

Unto his brothers bedde comen he is, 

And suche comfort he gaf him, for to gon 

To Orleaunce, that he up stert anon. 

And on his way forth-ward than is he fare. 

In hope for to ben lissed of his care. 

Whan they were come almost to that cite, 

But if it were a tuo furlong or thre, 

A yonge clerke roming by himself they mette, 

Which that in Latine thriftily hem grette. 

iSS — 6. See also p. z6t : — ' Andwherit be by craft or nygrotnancye, I 
wot nere.' Trcgetotir appears to be derived from trcget, deceit, which 
has probably the same root as trehuchet, a machine used in war, also a 
enare for catching birds. The same word may be traced in the 
Italian trabocheito, a species of trap-door; from which trcf/ctoiir is pos- 
sibly derived, as Tyrwhitt supposes, in consequence of his frequent um 
of such deceptions. 


And after that he seyd a wonder tliiuge ; 

' I know,' qviod he, ' the cause of your coiuyiige.' 

And er thoy fortlier any foote went, 

He toUl hem al that was in lier entent. 

Tliis Breton ck-rk him asked of fehiwes. 

The whicli he had y-knowen in ohle dawes;' 

And he answerd him that they dede were, 

For which he wept ful often many a tore. 

Doun of his hors Aurilius light anon, 
And forth with this magicien is he gon 
Home to his hons, and made him wel at ese; 
Hem kicked no vitaile that might hem plese. 
So wel arraie<l hous as ther was on, 
Aurilius in his lif saw never nou. 
He schewed him, er they went to soupere, 
Forestas, parkes ful of wild dere. 
Ther saw he hartes with her homes hee, 
The OT'etest that were ever seen with eve. 
He saw of hem an hundred slain with houudes, 
Aud som with arwes blede of bitter woundea. 
He saw, whan voided were the wikle dere, 
Thise faukoners upon a faire rivere. 
That with hir haukes han the heron slein. 
Tho saw he knyhtes justen in a jjlcyn. 
And after this he dede him suche jilcsaunce. 
That he him schewed his lady in a daunce, 
On which him selveu daunced, as hint thouht.' 
And whan this mai.stcr, that this magik wiouht. 
Saw it wa.s time, he clapped his hondes two, 
And, fare wel ! al the revel is ago. 
And yet remued they never out of the hous, 
Whiles they sawe alio this sightes mcrvelou.s ; 
But in his stodie, ther his bokes be, 
They saten stille, and no wight but they tlire. 

' The clianpe oi ilayt into tlairrg, for the sake of the rhyme, in a ?ery 
great jioctiral licence. The Itri'ton clerk iti very uaturally ri-prcseuteJ 
u a.'iking uftcr lii< old collude cimiiKinioiid, 

' iee aiiii\\). 501, note 4. 


To him this maister called than his squyere, 

And sayde him thus, 'May v/e go to soupere? 

Almost an houre it is, I undertake, 

Sin I yow bad our soper for to make, 

Whan that this worthy men wenten with me 

Into my stodie, ther as my bokes be.' 

' Sire,' quod this squyere, ' whan it lyketh you. 

It is al redy, though ye wolde righte now.' 

* Go we than soupe,' quod he, ' as for the best, 

This amorous folk som time moste have rest.' 

At after ^ soper fel they in ti'ete 
What somme schold his maisters guerdon be. 
To remue alle the rokkes of Bretaigne, 
And eke fro Gerounde to the mouth of Seine. ^ 
He made it strange, and swore,^ so God him save, 
Lesse than a thousand pound he wolde nought have,* 
Ne gladly for that somme he wolde not goon. 
Aurilius with blisful hert anoon 
Answerde thus ; ' Fy on a thousand pound ! 
This wyde world, which that men say is round, 
I wold it give, if I were lord of it. 
This bargeyn is ful dry ve, for we ben knyt ; 
Ye schal be payed trewly by my trouthe. 
But loketli now, for necligence or slouthe. 
Ye tarie us heer no lenger than to morwe.' 
'Nay,' quod this clerk, 'have her my faith to boi'we.' 

To bed is goon Aiu-ilius whan him leste. 
And wel neigh al night he had his reste. 
What for his labour, and his hope of blisse, 
His woful hert of penaunce had a lisse. 

' The expression at after is still used iu Yorkshire. 

> Including the coasts of Saintonge, I'oitou, Bretagnc, and part of 

3 The attentive reader will no doubt have remarked that the correct 
grammatical inflections of the verb have not been preserved in the 
part taken from Tyrwhitt, with nearly so much exactness as in that 
founded upon tlie Ilarl. M.S. Thus, in this page, we have the verb in 
the plural, swore, with the subject, he, in the singular. 

•• The lacuna in the Harl. SIS. ends with this line. See ante, p. 4^4 
note I. 


Upon the luorwo, whan tliat it was day, 
To Ereteign take thoi the righte way, 
Aurilius, and this niagicien bisyde, 
And ben descendid ther thay wol abyde; 
And this was, as these bookes we remembro. 
The cokle frosty scisoun of Deccmbre. 
Phebus wax old, and liewed lyk latoun, 
That in his hootc declinacioun 
Schon as the burned gold, with stremes bright; 
But now in Capricorn adoun he light, 
Wher as he schon ful i)ale, I dar wel sayn. 
The bitter frostos with the sleet and rayn 
Destroyed hath the grcne in eveiy yerd. 
Janus sit by the fuyr with double berd,' 
And dryuketh of liis bugle horn the wyu ; 
Biforn him stont the braun of toskid swyn,' 
And iiowel^ crieth every lusty man. 
Aurilius, in al that ever he can, 

' Janus, with double beard, represents the winter solstice. 

: The boar's head was the appropriate dish at Christmas. Aubrey, 
in a MS., dated 1678, says, ' Before the la.=t civil wars, in pcntlemcn'a 
houses at Christmas, the first diet that was brouRht to table was a 
boars head with a lemon in his moutli.' Jlorant, in his account of 
Horn Church, Hl<t. E><sex,i. 74- informs us that 'the inhabitants paj 
the great tithes on Chrismas-day. and are treated with a bull and 
brawn. The boar's head is wrestled for. The poor have the scraps.'— 
Brand's Pop. Antiq. See a7ite,p. 4J3, note S. , . ^ 

3 Spe-ht says that this word 'signifath D> us mbiscum. and is taken 
for Christmas and twenty or thirty dales next before.' Tyrwhitt gives 
another derivation from Menage, in voce Nowel. He says, ' Noel m 
French is derived from natalis, and .signiCcd originally a cry of joy at 
Christmas, le jour natai de nitre Scifjncur. It was afterwards the usual 
cry of the people upon all occasions of joy and fistivity.'— //i.</. <l>- 
Charles VII., par Chartier, p. 3- At the pioclaniation of Henry \l., 
' fut cri6 sur la fosse de son pire ii haute voi.v, Vive le Uoy Henii, Roy 
de France et d'Angleterre ; et avec cela fut crie Aoil des assistans, con- 
fortans les dits Anglois.' Kotwithstanding the high authority of 
Menage, this word would rather appear to be derived from the Frcncli 
nouvdles, news, and to have been adopted as an appropriate cry of joy 
at thefestivalofour Lord's nativity, from the angelic announcement 
to the shepherds, ' Behold, I bring you good <Wi/K/.<!.' &c.. Luke 11 10 j 
whence the Christian dispensation itself is called Euavy.Aior, translated 
Into the Saxon Gospel, good news, or nouvelles. The cry JSyice/ will 


Doth to his maister chier and reverence, 
And peyneth him to doon his diligence 
To bringen him out of his peynes smerte, 
Or with a swerd that he wold slytte his herte. 

This subtil clerk such routhe had of this man, 
That night and day he spedeth him, that he can. 
To wayte a tyme of his conclusioun ; 
This is to say, to make illusioun, 
By such an apparence of jogelrie, 
(I can no termes of astrologie) 
That sche and every wight schold wene and saye, 
That of Breteygn the rokkes were awaye, 
Or elles they sonken were under the grounde. 
So atte last he hath a tyme i-founde 
To make his japes and his wrecchednesse 
Of such a supersticious cursednesse. 
His tables Tollitanes^ forth he brought 
Ful wel corrected, ne ther lakked nought, 

tlius be less inappropriate to any general occasion for rejoicing than it 
would be if derived from Deus nohiscam, or natalis. 

This view is sustained by the fact that the Christmas carols generally 
took the form of tidings, or nouvdles, delivered by an angel, as in the 
following simple, but beautiful, specimen in tlie Northern dialect, printeil 
at Edinburgh in 1621 from an old copy, and given in Brand's I'op. Antiq. .- 

I come from hevin to tell 
The best noweUis that ever befell ; 
To yaw this tythinges trew 1 bring 
And I will of them say and sing. 

This day to yow is borne ane childe 
Of Blarie meike and Virgine mylde ; 
That blissit barne, benign and kynde, 
Sail yow rejoice baith heart and mynd. 

[The derivation of noel is from Lat. vatalis ; of. Provencal nadal. The 
derivation suggested from nouvdles is not reconcilable witli plionetic laws. 
See r.rachet.— \V. W. S.] 

1 The astronomical tables composed by order of Alfonso X., King of 
Castile, about the middle of tlie tliirteenth century, were sometimes 
called 'Tabula: Toletana; from their being adapted to the city of Toledo. 
— T. 'The poet describes the Alplwnsine astronomical tables by the 
several parts of them, wherein some technic:il terms occur which were 
used by the old astronomers, and continued by the corapilere of those 


"Neitlior Ills collect, ne his expaus yeerea, 
Neither his routes, ne his otlier goeres, 
As ben his centris, and his arcjiunentis, 
And his proporciDnels couvenientis 
For her equaeiouns in every thing. 
And by his thre speeres in his worchiug. 
He knew fill wol how fer Allnath was schove 
Fro tlie heed of thilk fixe Aries above. 
That in tlie foiirthe speere considi'cd is. 
Fill subtilly he calkiled al this. 
Whan he liad founde his iirst mancioun, 
Ho know tho remonanut by jjrojiorcioun; 
And knew the arisyng of this nioone wel. 
And in whos face, and terme, and every dol ; 
And knew ful wel the moones mancioun 
Acovdaimt to his operacionn; 
And knew also his other observannces, 
For suche ilhisionns and siiche nieschaunces. 
As hethen folk* used in tliilke dayes. 
For which no lenger maked he delayes, 

tables. CoUixt yeeres&re certain sums of years with the motion of th« 
heavenly bodies corresponding to them, as of 30, 40, 60, 80, 100, &c., 
dij-jjosed into tables ; and ej-pan.'i yceie-f are the sin;,'lf years, with the 
motions of the Iieavenly bodies answering to them, beginning at 1, and 
continued on to tlie smallest collict sum, as io, 40,&c. A root or mdijt 
is any certain time, taken at the author's pleasure, from which, as an 
era, the celestial motions are to be computed. By Proporcioiiels cou- 
venientis are meant the tables of proportional parts. Centre, argument. 
and other terms there used, have peculiar significations in tlie old astro- 
nomers and the Alphonsine writers, well known to astronomers, wliich 
it would be too tedious to explain here, as well as unnecessary for 
common readers.' — Additions to Urry's Gloss. Speere means of course 
sphere. ' Alnath is a fixed star in the horns of Aries, from whence the 
first mansion of the moon taketli his name.' — S. Mnnciviin appears to 
have tlie same meaning as hoitue in the following problem in Cliauecr'o 
treatise on the use of the Astrolabie: — ' Tlie concliK-ion of the equation 
of houses after the astrolabie.' Centris is e.xplaincd in tlie same 
treatise as follows : — ' The names of the sterres ben written in the niar- 
ginc of thy reete [explained before to mean a part of the instrument 
which resembles a net] there they sit, of the whychu sterres the small 
point is clepcd the centure.' 

' The Franklin very properly classes all these observances among 
the illusions of thu classical idolatr)'. 


But tliurgli his magik, for a wike or tweye, 
It semecl that the rokkes were aweye. 

Aurilius, which yet dispayred is 
Wher he schal han his love or fare amys, 
Awayteth night and day on this miracle ; 
And whan he knew that ther was noon obstacle, 
That voyded were these rokkes everichoon, 
Doun to his maistres feet he fel anoon, 
And sayd ; ' I wrecched woful Aurilius, 
Thanke you, lord, and my lady Venus, 
That me han holpe fro my cares colde.'